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v. I 





Among the questions included in the as yet relatively 
unformulated field of social science (without reference to 
logical order) are: immigration; racial prejudice; cultural 
assimilation; the comparative mental and moral worth of 
races and nationalities; crime, alcoholism, vagabondage, 
and other forms of anti-social behavior; nationalism and 
internationalism; democracy and class-hierarchization; effi- 
ciency and happiness, particularly as functions of the rela- ; 
tionjof the individual to the social framework containing Sr 
bis activities; the rate of individualization possible withouM 
disorganization; the difference between unreflective social 
cohesion brought about by tradition, and reflective social 
co-operation brought about by rational selection of common 
ends and means; the introduction of new and desirable 
attitudes and values without recourse to the way of revolu- 
tion; and, more generally, the determination of the most 
general and particular laws of social reality, preliminary 
to the introduction of a social control'as satisfactory, or as 
increasingly satisfactory, as is our control of the material 
world, resulting from the study of the laws of physical 

Now we are ourselves primarily interested in these prob- 
lems, but we are convinced of the necessity of approaching 
these and other social problems by isolating given societies 
and studying them, first, in the totality of their objective 
complexity, and then comparatively. The present study 
was not, in fact, undertaken exclusively or even primarily 
as an expression of interest in the Polish peasant (although 
our selection of this society was influenced by the question 
of immigration and by other considerations named below, 



pp. 74 ff.), but the Polish peasant was selected rather as a 
convenient object for the exemplification of a standpoint 
and method outlined in the methodological note forming 
the first pages of the present volume. The scope of our 
study will be best appreciated by having this fact in 

The work consists of five volumes, largely documentary 
in their character. Volumes I and II comprise a study of 
the organization of the peasant primary groups (family 
and community), and of the partial. evolution of this system 
of organization under the influence of the new industrial 
system and of immigration to America and Germany. 
Volume III is the autobiography (with critical treatment) 
nf a.n irnmigrq.nt of peasant origin but belonging by occupa- 
tion to the lower city class, and illustrates the tendency to 
disorganization of the individual under the conditions in- 
volved in a rapidj:ransition from one type of social organiza- 
tion_tp_another. Volume IV treats the dissolution of the 
primary group and the social and political reorganization 
and unification of peasant communities in Poland on the 
new ground of rational co-operation. Volume V is based 
on studies of the Polish immigrant in America and shows 
the degrees and forms of disorganization associated with 
a too-rapid and inadequately mediated individualization, 
with a sketch of the beginnings of reorganization. 

We are unable to record here in a detailed way our 
recognition of the generous assistance we have received from 
many sources, but wish to express a particular apprecia- 
tion to the following individuals, societies, periodicals, 
courts, etc.: 

Professor Fr. Bujak, University of Cracow; Professor 
Stefan Surzycki, University of Cracow; Dr. S. Hupka, 
Cracow; Mr. Roman Dmowski, Warsaw; Mr. Wladysiaw 
Grabski, Warsaw; Mr. Jerzy Goscicki, Warsaw; Priest Jan 


Gralewski, Starawies; Mr. A. Kulikowski, Vilna; Mrs. 
Eileen Znaniecka, Chicago. 

The Emigrants' Protective Association of Warsaw 
(Towarzystwo Opieki nod Wychodzcami}; the Cracow 
Academy of Sciences (Akademia Umiejqtnosci w Krakowie) ; 
the Society for the Knowledge of the Country (Towarzys- 
two Krajoznawcze); the Society of United Women Land- 
Residents (Towarzystwo ZjednoczonychZiemianek); Amerika 
Institut (Berlin: Dr. R. W. Drechsler, Dr. Karl O. Bertling). 

Gazeta Swiqteczna (Warsaw: Tadeusz Proszynski, Mrs. 
Burtnowska); Zaranie (Mr. M. M. Malinowski, Miss 
Stanislawa Malinowska, Miss Irene Kosmowska) ; Tygodnik 
Polski (Warsaw: Gustaw Simon); Narod (Warsaw: Mr. 
A. S. Gol^biowski) ; Zorza (Mr. Stanislaw Rutkowski, 
Mr. Stanislaw Domanski); Poradnik Gospodarski (Posen: 
Mr. K. Brownsford); Dziennik Poznanski (Posen); Zgoda 
(Chicago); Dziennik Chicagoski (Chicago). 

Chief Justice Harry Olson, the Municipal Court of 
Chicago; Judge Merritt W. Pinckney, Judge Victor P. 
Arnold, Judge Mary Bartelme, Chief Probation Officer 
Joel D. Hunter, and the probation officers and keepers of 
the probation records of the Juvenile Court of Cook County; 
the officials of the United Charities of Chicago, particularly 
of the Northwest District; the officials of the Legal Aid 
Society of Chicago; the keepers of the records of the Cook 
County Criminal Court; the keepers of the records of the 
Cook County Coroner's Office. 

W. I. T. 
F. Z. 





*The Peasant Family ........ 87 ' 

yMarriage 106 

^The Class-System in Polish Society 128 

^Social Environment 140 

^Economic Life v 156 - 

Religious and Magical Attitudes . . . . 205 

Theoretic and Aesthetic Interests 288 


Specimen Peasant Letters 308 


Borek Series . 317 

Wroblewski Series 325 

Stelmach Series 379 

Osinski Series 394 

Gosciak Series 451 

Markiewicz Series 455 


One of the most significant features of social evolution 
is the growing importance which a conscious and rational 
technique tends to assume in social life. We are less and 
less ready to let any social processes go on without our 
active interference and we feel more and more dissatisfied 
with any active interference based upon a mere whim of an 
individual or a social body, or upon preconceived philosoph- 
ical, religious, or moral generalizations. 

The marvelous results attained by a rational technique 
in the sphere of material reality invite us to apply some 
analogous procedure to social reality. Our success in 
controlling nature gives us confidence that we shall eventu- 
ally be able to control the social world in the same measure. 
Our actual inefficiency in this line is due, not to any funda- 
mental limitation of our reason, but simply to the historical 
fact that the objective attitude toward social reality is a 
recent acquisition. 

While our realization that nature can be controlled 
only by treating it as independent of any immediate act 
of our will or reason is four centuries old, our confidence 
in "legislation" and in "moral suasion" shows that this 
idea is not yet generally realized with regard to the social 
world. But the tendency to rational control is growing in 
this field also and constitutes at present an insistent demand 
on the social sciences. 

This demand for a rational control results from the 
increasing rapidity of social evolution. The old forms of 
control were based upon the assumption of an essential 
stability of the whole social framework and were effective 
only in so far as this stability was real. In a stable social 


organization there is time enough to develop in a purely 
empirical way, through innumerable experiments and 
failures, approximately sufficient means of control with 
regard to the ordinary and frequent social phenomena, 
while the errors made in treating the uncommon and rare 
phenomena seldom affect social life in such a manner as to 
imperil the existence of the group; if they do, then the 
catastrophe is accepted as incomprehensible and inevitable. 
Thus to take an example the Polish peasant community 
has developed during many centuries complicated systems 
of beliefs and rules of behavior sufficient to control social 
life under ordinary circumstances, and the cohesion of 
the group and the persistence of its membership are strong 
enough to withstand passively the influence of eventual 
extraordinary occurrences, although there is no adequate 
method of meeting them. And if the crisis is too serious 
and the old unity or prosperity of the group breaks down, 
this is usually treated at first as a result of superior forces 
against which no fight is possible. 

But when, owing to the breakdown of the isolation of the 
group and its contact with a more complex and fluid world, 
the social evolution becomes more rapid and the crises 
more frequent and varied, there is no time for the same 
gradual, empirical, unmethodical elaboration of approxi- 
mately adequate means of control, and no crisis can be 
passively borne, but every one must be met hi a more or 
less adequate way, for they are too various and frequent not 
to imperil social life unless controlled in time. The substitu- 
tion of a conscious technique for a half-conscious routine 
has become, therefore, a social necessity, though it is evi- 
dent that the development of this technique could be only 
gradual, and that even now we find in it many implicit or 
explicit ideas and methods corresponding to stages of human 
thought passed hundreds or even thousands of years ago. 


The oldest but most persistent form of social technique ) / 
is that of " ordering-and-f orbidding " that is, meeting a 
crisis by an arbitrary act of will decreeing the disappearance 
of the undesirable or the appearance of the desirable phenom- 
na, and using arbitrary physical action to enforce the 
decree. This method corresponds exactly to the magical 
Dhase of natural technique. In both, the essential means 
of bringing a determined effect is more or less consciously 
thought to reside in the act of will itself by which the effect 
s decreed as desirable and of which the action is merely 
an indispensable vehicle or instrument; in both, the process 

which the cause (act of will and physical action) is 
supposed to bring its effect to realization remains out of 
reach of investigation; in both, finally, if the result is not 
attained, some new act of will with new material acces- 
sories is introduced, instead of trying to find and remove 
he perturbing causes. A good instance of this in the 
social field is the typical legislative procedure of today. 

It frequently happens both in magic and in the ordering- 
and-forbidding technique that the means by which the act 
of will is helped are really effective, and thus the result is 
attained, but, as the process of causation, being unknown, 
cannot be controlled, the success is always more or less 
accidental and dependent upon the stability of general 
enditions; when these are changed, the intended effect 
ailjig^h appear, the subject is unable to account for the 
reaiBlr of the failure and can only try by guesswork some 
)ther means. And even more frequent tl^an this accidental 
iuccess is the result that the action brings some effect, but 
ot the desired one. 

There is, indeed, one difference between the ordering- 
md-f orbidding technique and magic. In social life an 
xpressed act of will may be sometimes a real cause, when 
the person or body from which it emanates has a particular 


authority in the eyes of those to whom the order or pro- 
hibition applies. But this does not change the nature of 
the technique as such. The prestige of rulers, ecclesiastics, 
and legislators was a condition making an act of will an 
efficient cause under the old regimes, but it loses its value 
in the modern partly or completely republican organizations. 

A more effective technique, based upon "common sense" 
and represented by "practical" sociology, has naturally 
originated in those lines of social action in which there was 
either no place for legislative measures or in which the hoc 
volo, sic jubeo proved too evidently inefficient in business, 
in charity and philanthropy, in diplomacy, in personal 
association, etc. Here, indeed, the act of will having been 
recognized as inefficient in directing the causal process, real 
causes are sought for every phenomenon, and an endeavor 
is made to control the effects by acting upon the causes, 
and, though it is often partly successful, many fallacies are 
implicitly involved in this technique; it has still many 
characters of a planless empiricism, trying to get at the 
real cause by a rather haphazard selection of various 
possibilities, directed only by a rough and popular reflection, 
and its deficiencies have to be shown and removed if a new 
and more efficient method of action is to be introduced. 

The first of these fallacies has often been exposed. It 
is the latent or manifest supposition that we know social 
reality because we live in it, and that we can assume things 
and relations as certain on the basis of our empirical 
acquaintance with them. The attitude is here about the 
same as in the ancient assumption that we know the physical 
world because we live and act in it, and that therefore we 
have the right of generalizing without a special and thorough 
investigation, on the mere basis of "common sense." The 
history of physical science gives us many good examples 
of the results to which common sense can lead, such as the 


geocentric system of astronomy and the mediaeval ideas 
about motion. And it is easy to show that not even the 
widest individual acquaintance with social reality, not even 
the most evident success of individual adaptation to this 
reality, can offer any serious guaranty of the validity of the 
common-sense generalizations. 

Indeed, the individual's sphere of practical acquaintance 
with social reality, however vast it may be as compared 
with that of others, is always limited and constitutes 

a small part of the whole complexity of social facts. It 

usually extends over only one society, often over only one 
class of this society; this we may call the exterior limitation. 
In addition there is an interior limitation, still more impor- 


tant, due to the fact that among all the experiences which the 
individual meets within the sphere of his social life a large, 
perhaps the larger, part is left unheeded, never becoming a 
basis of common-sense generalizations. This selection of 
experiences is the result of individual temperament on the 
one hand and of individual interest on the other. In any 
case, whether temperamental inclinations or practical 
considerations operate, the selection is subjective that is, 
valid only for this particular individual in this particular 
social position and thereby it is quite different from, and 
incommensurable with, the selection which a scientist would 
make in face of the same body of data from an objective, 
impersonal viewpoint. 

Nor is the practical success of the individual within his 
sphere of activity a guaranty of his knowledge of the rela- 
tions between the social phenomena which he is able to 
control. Of course there must be some objective validity 
in his schemes of social facts otherwise he could not live 
in society but the truth of these schemes is always only 
a rough approximation and is mixed with an enormous 
amount of error. When we assume that a successful 


adaptation of the individual to his environment is a proof 
that he knows this environment thoroughly, we forget that 
there are degrees of success, that the standard of success 
is to a large extent subjective, and that all the standards of 
success applied in human society may be and really are- 
very low, because they make allowance for a very large 
number of partial failures, each of which denotes one or 
many errors. Two elements are found in varying pro- 
portions in every adaptation; one is the actual control 
exercised over the environment; the other is the claims 
which this control serves to satisfy. The adaptation may be 
perfect, either because of particularly successful and wide 
control or because of particularly limited claims. Whenever 
the control within the given range of claims proves in- 
sufficient, the individual or the group can either develop a 
better control or limit the claims. And, in fact, in every 
activity the second method, of adaptation by failures, plays 
a very important role. Thus the individual's knowledge 
of his environment can be considered as real only in the 
particular matters in which he does actually control it; 
his schemes can be true only in so far as they are perfectly, 
absolutely successful. And if we remember how much of 
practical success is due to mere chance and luck, even this 
limited number of truths becomes doubtful. Finally, the 
truths that stand the test of individual practice are always 
schemes of the concrete and singular, as are the situations 
in which the individual finds himself. 

In this way the acquaintance with social data and the 
knowledge of social relations which we acquire in practice 
are always more or less subjective, limited both in number 
and in generality. Thence comes the well-known fact that 
the really valuable part of practical wisdom acquired 7 by 
the individual during his life is incommunicable cannot be 
stated in general terms; everyone must acquire it afresh 


by a kind of apprenticeship to life that is, by learning to 
select experiences according to the demands of his own 
personality and to construct for his own use particular 
schemes of the concrete situations which he encounters. 
Thus, all the generalizations constituting the common- 
sense social theory and based on individual experience are 
both insignificant and subject to innumerable exceptions. 
A sociology that accepts them necessarily condemns itself 
to remain in the same methodological stage, and a practice 
based upon them must be as insecure and as full of failures 
as is the activity of every individual. 

Whenever, now, this "practical" sociology makes an 
effort to get above the level of popular generalizations 
by the study of social reality instead of relying upon indi- 
vidual experience, it still preserves the same method as the 
individual in his personal reflection; ^investigation always 
g^es on with an immediate reference to practical aims, and 
the standards of the desirable and undesirable are the 
ground upon which theoretic problems are approached. 
This is the second fallacy of the practical sociology, and 
the results of work from this standpoint are quite dis- 
proportionate to the enormous efforts that have recently 
been put forth in the collection and elaboration of materials 
preparatory to social reforms. The example of physical 
science and material technique should have shown long ago 
that only a scientific investigation, which is quite free from 
any dependence on practice, can become practically useful 
in its applications. Of course this does not mean that the *" 
scientist should not select for investigation problems whose 
solution has actual practical importance ; the sociologist may 
study crime or war as the chemist studies dyestuffs. But * 
from the method of the study itself all practical considera- 
tions must be excluded if we want the results to be valid. 
And this has not yet been realized by practical sociology. ! 


The usual standpoint here is that of an explicit or 
implicit norm with which reality should comply. The norm 
may be intrinsic to the reality, as when it is presumed that 
the actually prevailing traditional or customary state of 
things is normal; or it may be extrinsic, as when moral, 
religious, or aesthetic standards are applied to social reality 
and the prevailing state of things is found in disaccord with 
the norm, and in so far abnormal. But this difference has 
no essential importance. In both cases the normal, agreeing 
with the norm, is supposed to be known either by practical 
acquaintance or by some particular kind of rational or 
irrational evidence; the problem is supposed to lie in the 
abnormal, the disharmony with the norm. In the first 
case the abnormal is the exceptional, in the second case it 
is the usual, while the normal constitutes an exception, but 
the general method of investigation remains the same. 

There is no doubt that the application of norms to 
reality had a historical merit; investigation was provoked 
in this way and the "abnormal" became the first object of 
empirical studies. It is the morally indignant observer of 
vice and crime and the political idealist-reformer who start 
positive investigations. But as soon as the investigation 
is started both indignation and idealism should be put aside. 
For in treating a certain body of material as representing 
the normal, another body of material as standing for the 
abnormal, we introduce at once a division that is necessarily 
artificial; for if these terms have a meaning it can be 
determined only on the basis of investigation, and the 
criterion of normality must be such as to allow us to include 
in the normal, not only a certain determined stage of social 
life and a limited class of facts, but also the whole series of 
different stages through which social life passes, and the 
whole variety of social phenomena. ^ The definition a priori 
of a group of facts that we are going to investigate as 


abnormal has two immediate consequences. First, our 
attention is turned to such facts as seem the most important 
practically, as being most conspicuously contrary to the 
norm and calling most insistently for reform. But the 
things that are practically important may be quite insig- 
nificant theoretically and, on the contrary, those which 
seem to have no importance from the practical point of 
view may be the source of important scientific discoveries. 
The scientific value of a fact depends on its connection with 
other facts, and in this connection the most commonplace 
facts are often precisely the most valuable ones, while 
a fact that strikes the imagination or stirs the moral feeling 
may be really either isolated or exceptional, or so simple as 
to involve hardly any problems. Again, by separating the 
abnormal from the normal we deprive ourselves of the 
opportunity of studying them in their connection with each 
other, while only in this connection can their study be fully 
fruitful. There is no break in continuity between the 
normal and the abnormal in concrete life that would permit 
any exact separation of the corresponding bodies of material, 
and the nature of the normal and the abnormal as deter- 
mined by theoretic abstraction can be perfectly understood 
only with the help of comparison. 

But there are other consequences of this fallacy. When 
the norm is not a result but a starting-point of the investiga- 
tion, as it is in this case, every practical custom or habit, 
every moral, political, religious view, claims to be the norm 
and to treat as abnormal whatever does not agree with it. 
The result is harmful both in practice and in theory. In 
practice, as history shows and as we see at every moment, 
a social technique based upon pre-existing norms tends to 
suppress all the social energies which seem to act in a way 
contrary to the demands of the norm, and to ignore all the 
social energies not included in the sphere embraced by the 


norm. This limits still more the practical importance of 
the technique and often makes it simply harmful instead of 

i useful. In theory, a sociology using norms as its basis 
deprives itself of the possibility of understanding and 

. controlling any important facts of social evolution. Indeed, 
every social process of real importance always includes a 
change of the norms themselves, not alone of the activity 
embraced by the norms. Traditions and customs, morality 
and religion, undergo an evolution that is more and more 
rapid, and it is evident that a sociology proceeding on the 
assumption that a certain norm is valid and that whatever 
does not comply with it is abnormal finds itself absolutely 
helpless when it suddenly realizes that this norm has lost 
all social significance and that some other norm has appeared 
in its place. This helplessness is particularly striking in 
moments of great social^crisis when the evolution of norms 
becomes exceptionally rapid. We notice it, for example, 
with particular vividness during the present war, when the 
whole individualistic system of norms elaborated during the 
last two centuries begins to retreat before a quite different 
system, which may be a state socialism or something 
quite new. 

The v third fallacy of the common-sense sociology is the 
implicit assumption that any group of social facts can be 
treated theoretically and practically in an arbitrary isolation 
from the rest of the life of the given society. This assump- 
tion is perhaps unconsciously drawn from the general form 
of social organization, in which the real isolation of certain 
groups of facts is a result of the demands of practical life. 
In any line of organized human activity only actions of a 
certain kind are used, and it is assumed that only such 
individuals will take part in this particular organization 
as are able and willing to perform these actions, and that 
they will not bring into this sphere of activity any tendencies 


that may destroy the organization. The factory and the 
army corps are typical examples of such organizations. The 
isolation of a group of facts from the rest of social life is here 
really and practically performed. But exactly in so far 
as such a system functions in a perfect manner there is no 
place at all for social science or social practice; the only 
thing required is a material division and organization of 
these isolated human actions. The task of social theory 
and social technique lies outside of these systems; it begins, 
for example, whenever external tendencies not harmonizing 
with the organized activities are introduced into the system, 
when the workmen in the factory start a strike or the soldiers 
of the army corps a mutiny. Then the isolation disappears; 
the system enters, through the individuals who are its 
members, into relation with the whole complexity of social 
life. And this lack of real isolation, which characterizes 
a system of organized activity only at moments of crisis, 
is a permanent feature of all the artificial, abstractly formed 
groups of facts such as "prostitution," "crime," "educa- 
tion," "war," etc. Every single fact included under these 
generalizations is connected by innumerable ties with an 
indefinite number of other facts belonging to various groups, 
and these relations give to every fact a different character. 
If we start to study these facts as a whole, without heeding 
their connection with the rest of the social world, we must 
necessarily come to quite arbitrary generalizations. If we 
start to act upon these facts in a uniform way simply because 
their abstract essence seems to be the same, we must neces- 
sarily produce quite different results, varying with the rela- 
tions of every particular case to the rest of the social world. 
This does not mean that it is not possible to isolate such 
groups of facts for theoretic investigation or practical activ- 
ity, but simply that the isolation must come, not a priori, 
but a posteriori, in the same way as the distinction 


between the normal and the abnormal. The facts must 
first be taken in connection with the whole to which they 
belong, and the question of a later isolation is a method- 
ological problem which we shall treat in a later part of 
this note. 

There are two other fallacies involved to a certain extent 
in social practice, although practical sociology has already 
repudiated^ them. The reason for their persistence in 
practice is that, even if the erroneousness of the old assump- 
tions has been recognized, no new working ideas have been 
put in their place. These assumptions are: (i) that men 
react in the same way to the same influences regardless of 
their individual or social past, and that therefore it is 
possible to provoke identical behavior in various individuals 
by identical means; (2) that men develop spontaneously, 
without external influence, tendencies which enable them 
to profit in a full and uniform way from given conditions, 
and that therefore it is sufficient to create favorable or 
remove unfavorable conditions in order to give birth to or 
suppress given tendencies. 

The assumption of identical reactions to identical 
influences is found in the most various lines of traditional 
social activity; the examples of legal practice and of educa- 
tion are sufficient to illustrate it. In the former all the 
assumptions about the "motives" of the behavior of the 
parties, all the rules and forms of investigation and examina- 
tion, all the decisions of the courts, are essentially based 
upon this principle. Considerations of the variety of 
traditions, habits, temperaments, etc., enter only inciden- 
tally and secondarily, and usually in doubtful cases, by the 
initiative of the lawyers; they are the result of common- 
sense psychological observations, but find little if any place 
in the objective system of laws and rules. And where, as 
in the American juvenile courts, an attempt is made to base 


legal practice upon these considerations, all legal apparatus 
is properly waived, and the whole procedure rests upon the 
personal qualifications of the judge. In education the 
same principle is exhibited in the identity of curricula, and 
is even carried so far as to require identical work from 
students in connection with the courses they follow, instead 
of leaving to everyone as much field as possible for personal 
initiative. Here again the fallaciousness of the principle is 
corrected only by the efforts of those individual teachers 
who try to adapt their methods to the personalities of the 
pupils, using practical tact and individual acquaintance. 
But as yet no objective principles have been generally^" 
substituted for the traditional uniformity. 

The assumption of the spontaneous development of 
tendencies if the material conditions are given is found in 
the exaggerated importance ascribed by social reformers to 
changes of material environment and in the easy conclusions 
drawn from material conditions on the mentality and 
character of individuals and groups. For example, it is 
assumed that good housing conditions will create a good 
family life, that the abolition of saloons will stop drinking, 
that the organization of a well-endowed institution is all 
that is necessary to make the public realize its value in 
practice. To be sure, material conditions do help or hinder, 
to a large extent the development of corresponding lines 
of behavior, but only if the tendency Js already there, for 
the way in which they will be used depends on the people 
who use them. The normal way of social action would be 
to develop the tendency and to create the condition simul- 
taneously, and, if this is impossible, attention should be paid 
rather to the development of tendencies than to the change 
of the conditions, because a strong social tendency will 
always find its expression by modifying the conditions, 
while the contrary is not true. For example, a perfect 


family life may exist in a Polish peasant community in 
conditions which would probably be considered in America 
as a necessary breeding-place of crime and pauperism, while 
uncommonly favorable external conditions in the Polish 
aristocratic class do not hinder a decay of family life. In 
Southern France and Northern Italy there is less drunk- 
enness with the saloon than in the prohibition states of 
America. In Russian Poland alone, without a Polish 
university and with only a private philosophical association, 
more than twice as much original philosophical literature 
has been published recently as in Russia with her eleven 
endowed universities. And innumerable examples could 
be cited from all departments of social life. But it is easy 
to understand that in the absence of a science of behavior 
social reformers pay more attention to the material con- 
ditions of the people than to the psychology of the people 
who live in these conditions; for the conditions are concrete 
and tangible, and we know how to grasp them and to con- 
ceive and realize almost perfect plans of material improve- 
ments, while in the absence of a science the reformer has 
no objective principles on which he can rely, and uncon- 
sciously tends to ascribe a preponderating importance to 
the material side of social life. 

And these fallacies of the common-sense sociology are 
not always due to a lack of theoretic ability or of a serious 
scientific attitude on the part of the men who do the work. 
They are the unavoidable consequence of the necessity of 
meeting actual situations at once. Social life goes on 
without interruption and has to be controlled at every 
moment. The business man or politician, the educator or 
charity-worker, finds himself continually confronted by 
new social problems which he must solve, however imperfect 
and provisional he knows his solutions to be, for the stream 
v - of evolution does not wait for him. He must have imme- 



diate results, and it is a merit on his part if he tries to 
reconcile the claims of actuality with those of scientific 
objectivity, as far as they can be reconciled, and endeavors 
to understand the social reality as well as he can before 
acting. Certainly social life is improved by even such a 
control as common-sense sociology is able to give; certainly 
no effort should be discouraged, for the ultimate balance 
proves usually favorable. But in social activity, even more 
than in material activity, the common-sense method is the 
most wasteful method, and to replace it gradually by a 
more efficient one will be a good investment. 

While, then, there is no doubt that actual situations 
must be handled immediately, we see that they cannot be 
solved adequately as long as theoretical reflection has their 
immediate solution in view. But there is evidently one 
issue from this dilemma, and it is the same as in material 
technique and physical science. We must be able to foresee 
future situations and prepare for them, and we must have 
in stock a large body of secure and objective knowledge 
capable of being applied to any situation, whether foreseen 
or unexpected. This means that we must have an empirical J 
and exact-, social science ready for eventual application. 
And such a science can be constituted only if we treat it 
as an end in itself, not as a means to something else, and 
if we give it time and opportunity to develop along all the 
lines of investigation possible, even if we do not see what 
may be the eventual applications of one or another of its 
results. The example of physical science and its applica- V^ 
tions shew that the only practically economical way of 
creating an efficient technique is to create a science inde- 
pendent of any technical limitations and then to take every ^ 
one of its results and try where and in what way they can 
be practically applied. The contrary attitude, the refusal 
to recognize any science that does not work to solve practical 


problems, in addition to leading to that inefficiency of both 
science and practice which we have analyzed above, shows 
a curious narrowness of mental horizon. We do not know 
what the future science will be before it is constituted and 
what may be the applications of its discoveries before they 
are applied; we do not know what will be the future of 
society and what social problems may arise demanding 
solution. The only practically justifiable attitude toward 
science is absolute liberty and disinterested help.^ 

Of course this does not mean that the actual social 
technique should wait until the science is constituted ; such 
as it is, it is incomparably better than none. But, just as 
in material technique, as soon as a scientific discovery is 
at hand an effort should be made to find for it a practical 
application, and if it can be applied in some particular 
field a new technique should take the place of the old in 
this field. 

But if no practical aims should be introduced beforehand 
into scientific investigation, social practice has, nevertheless, 
the right to demand from social theory that at least some 
of its results shall be applicahle_a^once, and that the number 
and importance of such results shalL continually increase. 
As one of the pragmatists has expressed it, practical life 
can and must give credit to science, but sooner or later 
science must pay her debts, and the longer the delay the 
greater the interest required. This demand of ultimate 
practical applicability is as important for science itself as 
for practice; it is a test, not only of the practical, but of the 
theoretical, value of the science. A science whose results 
can be applied proves thereby that it is really based upon 
experience, that it is able to grasp a great variety of prob- 
lems, that its method is really exact' that it is valid. The 
test of applicability is a salutary responsibility which 
science must assume in her own interest. 


If we attempt now to determine what should be the 
object-matter and the method of a social theory that would 
be able to satisfy the demands of modern social practice, it 
is evident that its main object should be the actual civilized 
society in its full development and with all its complexity 
of situations, for it is the control of the actual civilized 
society that is sought in most endeavors of rational practice. 
But here, as in every other science, a determined body of 
material assumes its full significance only if we can use 
comparison freely, in order to distinguish the essential 
from the accidental, the simple from the complex, the 
primary from the derived. And fortunately social life 
gives us favorable conditions for comparative studies, 
particularly at the present stage of evolution, in the coexist- 
ence of a certain number of civilized societies sufficiently 
alike in their fundamental cultural problems to make 
comparison possible, and differing sufficiently in their 
traditions, customs, and general national spirit to make 
comparison fruitful. And from the list of these civilized 
societies we should by no means exclude those non-white 
societies, like the Chinese, whose organization and attitudes 
differ profoundly from our own, but which interest us both 
as social experiments and as situations with which we have 
to reconcile our own future. 

In contrast with this study of the various^ present 
civilized societies, the lines along which most of the purely 
scientific sociological work has been done up to the present 
that is, ethnography of primitive societies and social 
history have a sejcondary, though by no means a negligible, 
importance. Their relation to social practice is only 
mediate; they can help the practitioner to_soJYe actuaL j 
cultural problems only to the degree that they help the 
scientist to understand actual cultural life; they are aux- 
iliary, and their own scientific value will increase with the 


progress of the main sphere of studies. In all the endeavors 
to understand and interpret the past and the savage we 
must use, consciously or not, our knowle.dge_Qf our civilized 
present life, which remains always a basis of comparison, 
whether the past and the primitive are conceived as anal- 
ogous with, or as different from, the present and the civilized. 
The less objective and critical our knowledge of the present, 
the more subjective and unmethodical is our interpretation 
of the past and the primitive; unable to see the relative 
and limited character of the culture within which we live, 
we unconsciously bend every unfamiliar phenomenon to the 
limitations of our own social personality. A really objective 
understanding of history and ethnography can therefore 
be expected only as a result of a methodical knowledge of 
present cultural societies. 

Another point to be emphasized with regard to the 
question of the object-matter of social theory is the necessity 
of taking into account the^jvhole __life-oL_a_givfin society 
(instead of arbitrarily selecting and isolating beforehand 
certain particular groups of Tacts. We have ^een already 
that the contrary procedure constitutes one of the fallacies 
of the common-sense sociology. It is also a fallacy usually 
committed by the observers of their own or of other socie- 
ties litterateurs, journalists, travelers, popular psycholo- 
gists, etc. In describing a given society they pick out the 
most prominent situations, the most evident problems, 
thinking to characterize thereby the life of the given group. 
Still more harmful for the development of science is this 
fallacy when used in the comparative sociology which 
studies an institution, an idea, a myth, a legal or moral 
norm, a form of art, etc., by simply comparing its content 
in various societies without studying it in the whole meaning 
which it has in a particular society and then comparing this 
with the whole meaning which it has in the various societies. 


We are all more or less guilty of this fault, but it pleases us 
to attribute it mainly to Herbert Spencer. 
** In order to avoid arbitrary limitations and subjective 
interpretations there are only two possible courses open. 
We can study monographically whole concrete societies 
with the total complexity of problems and situations which 
constitute their cultural life; or we can work on special 
social problems, following the problem in a certain limited 
number of concrete social groups and studying it in every 
group with regard to the particular form which it assumes 
under the influence of the conditions prevailing in this 
society, taking into account the complex meaning which a 
concrete cultural phenomenon has in a determined cultural 
environment. In studying the society we go from t 
whole social context to the problem, and in studying the 

problem we go from the problem to the whole social context. , 
And in both types of work the only safe method is to start 
with the assumption that we know absolutely nothing about 
the group or the problem we are to investigate except such 
purely formal criteria as enable us to distinguish materials 
belonging to our sphere of interest from those which do not 
belong there./ But this attitude of indiscriminate recep- 
tivity toward any concrete data should mark only the first 
stage of investigation that of limiting the field. As soon 
as we become acquainted with the materials we begin to 
select them with the help of criteria which involve certain 
methodological generalizations and scientific hypotheses. 
This must be done, since the whole empirical concreteness 
cannot be introduced into science, cannot be described or 
explained. We have to limit ourselves to certain theoreti- 
cally important data, but we must know how to distinguish 
the data which are important. And every further step of 
the investigation will bring with it new methodological 
problems analysis of the complete concrete data into 


elements, systematization of these elements, definition of 
social facts, establishing of social laws. All these stages of 
scientific procedure must be exactly and carefully defined 
if social theory is to become a science conscious of its own 
methods and able to apply them with precision, as is the 
case with the more mature and advanced physical and 
biological sciences. And it is always the question of an 
ultimate practical applicability which, according to our 
previous discussion, will constitute the criterion the only 
secure and intrinsic criterion of a science. 

Now there are two fundamental practical problems which 
have constituted the center of attention of reflective social 
| practice in all times. These are Ji}^ the problem of the 
dependence of the individual upon social organization and 
culture, and (2^ the problem of the dependence of social 
organization and culture upon the individual. Practically, 
the first problem is expressed in the question, How shall we 
produce with the help of the existing social organization and 
culture the desirable mental and moral characteristics in the 
individuals constituting the social group ? And the second 
problem means in practice, How shall we produce, with the 
help of the existing mental and moral characteristics of the 
individual members of the group, the desirable type of 
social organization and culture P 1 

If social theory is to become the basis of social technique 
and to solve these problems really, it is evident that it must 
include both kinds of data involved in them namely, the 
objective cultural elements of social life and the subjective 
characteristics of the members of the social group and 
that the two kinds of data must be taken as correlated. 

1 Of course a concrete practical task may include both problems, as when we 
attempt, by appealing to the existing attitudes, to establish educational institu- 
tions which will be so organized as to produce or generalize certain desirable 


For these data we shall use now and in the future the terms 
"son's.] values!! (or simply "values") and ^attitudesZ' 

By a social value we understand any datum having an 
empirical content accessible to the members of some social 
group and a meaning with regard to which it is or may be an 
object of activity. Thus, a foodstuff, an instrument, a 
coin, a piece of poetry, a university, a myth, a scientific 
theory, are social values. Each of them has a content that 
is sensual in the case of the foodstuff, the instrument, the 
coin ; partly sensual, partly imaginary in the piece of poetry, 
whose content is constituted, not only by the written or 
spoken words, but also by the images which they evoke, and 
in the case of "the university, whose content is the whole 
complex of men, buildings, material accessories, and images 
representing its activity; or, finally, only imaginary in the 
case of a mythical personality or a scientific theory. The 
meaning of these values becomes explicit whence take-them_ 
in connection with human^ctiojas. The meaning of the 
foodstuff is its reference to its eventual consumption; that 
of an instrument, its reference to the work for which it is 
designed; that of a coin, the possibilities of buying and 
selling or the pleasures of spending which it involves; that 
of the piece of poetry, the sentimental and intellectual reac- 
tions which it arouses; that of the university, the social 
activities which it performs; that of the mythical personal- 
ity, the cult of which it is the object and the actions of which 
it is supposed to be the author; that of the scientific theory, 
the possibilities of control of experience by idea or action 
that it permits. The social value is thus opposed to the 
natural thing, which has a content but, as a part of nature, 
has no meaning for human activity, is treated as " valueless" ; 
when the, natural thing assumes a meaning, it becomes 
thereby a social value. And naturally a social value may 


have many meanings, for it may refer to many differen 
kinds of activity. 

By attitude we understand a process of individual con 
sciousness which determines real or possible activity of th 
individual in the social world. Thus, hunger that compel i 
the consumption of the foodstuff; the workman's decisio: 
to use the tool; the tendency of the spendthrift to spend th 
coin; the poet's feelings and ideas expressed in the poer 
and the reader's sympathy and admiration ; the needs whic 
the institution tries to satisfy and the response it prc 
vokes; the fear and devotion manifested in the cult of th 
divinity; the interest in creating, understanding, or appl) 
ing a scientific theory and the ways of thinking implied in ?< 

all these are attitudes. The attitude is thus the individu. 

^ i --.-- 

counterpart of the social value; activity, in whatever lorn 
is the bond between them. By its reference to activit 
and thereby to individual consciousness the value is distil' 
guished from the natural thing. By its reference to activit 
and thereby to the social world the attitude is distinguishe 
from the psychical state. In the examples quoted abo^ 
we were obliged to use with reference to ideas and volitioi 
words that have become terms of individual psycholog 
by being abstracted from the objective social reality i 
which they apply, but originally they were designed 1 
express attitudes, not psychological processes. A psych 
logical process is an attitude treated , as an object in itse 
isolated by a reflective act of attention, and taken first of 
in connection with other states of the same individual. / 
attitude is a psychological process treated as primarily mar 
fested in its reference to the social world and taken first 
all in connection with some social value. Individual ps 
chology may later re-establish the connection between t 
psychological process and the objective reality which h 
been severed by reflection; it may study psychologic. 


processes as conditioned by the facts going on in the objec- 
tive world. In the same way social theory may later con- 
nect various attitudes of an individual and determine his 
social character. But it is the original (usually uncon- 
sciously occupied) standpoints which determine at once the 
subsequent methods of these two sciences. The psycho 
logical process remains always fundamentally a state oj 
somebody; the attitude remains always fundamentally ai 
attitude toward something. 

Taking this fundamental distinction of standpoint into 
account, we may continue to use for different classes of 
attitudes the same terms which individual psychology has 
used for psychological processes, since these terms constituti 
the common property of all reflection about conscious life 
The exact meaning of all these terms from the standpoin 
of social theory must be established during the process o 
investigation, so that every term shall be defined in viev 
of its application and its methodological validity tested ir 
actual use. It would be therefore impractical to attempt t( 
establish in advance the whole terminology of attitudes. 

But when we say that the data of social theory are atti- 
tudes and values, this is not yet a sufficient determination of 
the object of this science, for the field thus defined would 
embrace the whole of human culture and include the object- 
matter of philology and economics, theory of art, theory of 
science, etc. A more exact definition is therefore necessary 
in order to distinguish social theory from these sciences, 
established long ago and having their own methods and their 
own aims. */' 

This limitation of the field of social theory arises quite 
naturally from the necessity of choosing between attitudes 
or values as fundamental data that is, as data whose char- 
acters will serve as a basis for scientific generalization: 
There are numerous values corresponding to every attitude, 


and numerous attitudes corresponding to every value; if, 
therefore, we compare different actions with regard to 
the attitudes manifested in them and form, for example, the 
general concept of the attitude of solidarity, this means that 
we have neglected the whole variety of values which are 
produced by these actions and which may be political or 
economical, religious or scientific, etc. If, on the contrary, 
we compare the values produced by different actions and 
form, for example, the general concepts of economic or reli- 
gious values, this means that we have neglected the whole 
.variety of attitudes which are manifested in these actions. 
Scientific generalization must always base itself upon such 
characters of its data as can be considered essential to its 
purposes, and the essential characters of human actions are 
completely different when we treat them from the stand- 
point of attitudes and when we are interested in them as 
values. There is therefore no possibility of giving to atti- 
tudes and values the same importance in a methodical scien- 
tific investigation ; either attitudes must be subordinated to 
values or the contrary. 

Now in all the sciences which deal with separate domains 
of human culture like language, art, science, economics, it 
is the attitudes which are subordinated to values a stand- 
point which results necessarily from the very specialization 
of these sciences in the study of certain classes of cultural 
values. For a theorician of art or an economist an attitude 
is important and is taken into consideration only in so far 
as it manifests itself in changes introduced into the sphere 
of aesthetic or economic values, and is defined exclusively 
by these changes that is, by the pre-existing complex of 
objective data upon which it acted and by the objective 
results of this activity. But unless there is a special class 
of cultural values which are not the object-matter of any 
other science, and unless there are special reasons for assign- 


ing this class to social theory a problem which we shall 
discuss presently the latter cannot take the same stand- 
point and subordinate attitudes to values, for this would 
mean fr useless duplication of existing sciences. There may 
be, as we shall see, some doubts whether such groups of 
phenomena as religion or morality should be for special 
reasons included in the field of social theory or should con- 
stitute the object-matter of distinct sciences; but there is 
no doubt that language and literature, art and science, 
economics and technique, are already more or less adequately 
treated by the respective disciplines and, while needing per- 
haps some internal reforms, do not call for a supplementary 
treatment by sociology or "folk-psychology" (Wundt). 

But there is also no doubt that a study of the social world 
from the opposite standpoint that is, taking attitudes as 
special object-matter and subordinating values to them is 
necessary, and that an exact methodology of such a study is 
lacking. Ethics, psychology, ethnology, sociology, have an 
interest in this field and each has occupied it in a fragmentary 
and unmethodical way. But in ethics the study of attitudes 
has been subordinated to the problem of ideal norms of 
behavior, not treated as an end in itself, and under these 
conditions no adequate method of a purely theoretic investi- 
gation can be worked out. Ethnology has contributed 
valuable data for the study of attitudes and values as found 
in the various social groups, particularly the "lower" races, 
but its work is mainly descriptive. Of the sociological 
method in the exact sense of the term we shall speak pres- 
ently. Psychology is, however, the science which has been' 
definitely identified with the study of consciousness, and the 
main question at this point is how far psychology has covered 
or is capable of covering the field of attitudes. 

As we have indicated above, the attitude is not a psy- 
chological datum in the given to this term by individual 


^\ ps 

psychology, and this is true regardless of the differences be- 
tween psychological schools. Concretely speaking, any 
method of research which takes the individual as a distinct 
entity and isolates him from his social environment, whether 
in order to determine by introspective analysis the content 
and form of his conscious processes, or in order to investigate 
the organic facts accompanying these processes, or, finally, 
in order to study experimentally his behavior as reaction to 
certain stimuli, finds necessarily only psychical, physical, or 
biological facts essentially and indissolubly connected with 
the individual as a psychical, physical, or generally biologi- 
cal reality. In order to reach scientific generalizations, such 
a method must work on the assumption of the universal 
permanence and identity of human nature as far as expressed 
in these facts; that is, its fundamental concepts must be 
such as to apply to all human beings, some of them even to 
- all conscious beings, and individual differences must be 
reconstructed with the help of these concepts as variations 
of the same fundamental background, due to varying inten- 
sities, qualities, and combinations of essentially the same 
universal processes. Indeed, as every psychological fact is 
a state of the individual as fundamental reality, the uniform- 
ity of these facts depends on the permanence and uniformity 
of such individual realities. The central field of individual 
psychology is therefore constituted by the most elementary 
conscious phenomena, which are the only ones that can be 
adequately treated as essentially identical in all conscious 
beings; phenomena which are limited to a certain number of 
individuals either must be treated as complex and analyzed 
into elementary and universal elements, or, if this cannot be 
done, then their content, varying with the variation of social 
milieu, must be omitted and only the form of their occurrence 
reconstructed as presumably the same wherever and when- 
ever they happen. 


But psychology is not exclusively individual psychology. 
We find numerous monographs listed as psychological, but 
studying conscious phenomena which are not supposed to 
have their source in "human nature" in general, but in 
special social conditions, which can vary with the variation 
of these conditions and still be common to all individuals 
in the same conditions, and which are therefore treated, not 
as mere states of individual beings, but as self-sufficient data 
to be studied without any necessary assumptions about the 
psychological, physiological, or biological constitution of the 
individuals composing the group. To this sphere of psy- 
chology belong all investigations that concern conscious 
phenomena particular to races, nationalities, religious, 
political, professional groups, corresponding to special occu- 
pations and interests, provoked by special influences of a 
social milieu, developed by educational activities and legal 
measures, etc. The term "social psychology" has become 
current for this type of investigations. The distinction of 
social from individual psychology and the methodological 
unity of social psychology as a separate science have not 
been sufficiently discussed, but we shall attempt to show \ 
that social psychology is precisely the science of attitudes and 
that, while its methods are essentially different from the 
methods of individual psychology, its field is as wide as 
conscious life. 

Indeed, every manifestation of conscious life, however 
simple or complex, general or particular, can be treated as 
anattitude, because every one involves a tendency to action, 
whether this action is a process of mechanical-activity pro- 
ducing physical changes in the material world, or anjittempt 
to influence the attitudes of others by speech and gesture, or 
a mental ar.tivity which does not at the given moment find 
a social expression, or even a mere process,of jsensual apper- 
ception. And all the objects of these actions can be treated 


as saoaZ-^alues, for they all have some content which is or 
may be accessible to other individuals even a personal 
"idea" can be communicated to others and a meaning by 
which they may become the objects of the activity of others. 
And thus social psychology, when it undertakes to study the 
conscious phenomena found in a given social group, has no 
reasons a priori which force it to limit itself to a certain class 
of such phenomena to the exclusion of others; any mani- 
festation of the conscious life of any member of the group is 
an attitude when taken in connection with the values which 
constitute the sphere of experience of this group, and this 
sphere includes data of the natural environment as well as 
artistic works or religious beliefs, technical products and 
economic relations as well as scientific theories. If, there- 
fore, monographs in social psychology limit themselves to 
such special problems as, for example, the study of general 
conscious phenomena produced in a social group by certain 
physical, biological, economic, political influences, by com- 
mon occupation, common religious beliefs, etc., the limita- 
tion may be justified by the social importance of these 
phenomena or even by only a particular interest of the 
author, but it is not necessitated by the nature of social 
psychology, which can study among the conscious phenom- 
ena occurring within the given social group, not only such 
as are peculiar to this group as a whole, but also, on the one 
hand, such as individual psychology assumes to be common 
to all conscious beings, and, on the other hand, such as may 
be peculiar to only one individual member of the group. 

But of course not all the attitudes found in the conscious 
life of a social group have the same importance for the pur- 
poses of social psychology at a given moment, or even for 
its general purposes as a science of the social world. On 
the one hand, the task of every science in describing and 
generalizing the data is to reduce as far as possible the limit- 


less complexity of experience to a limited number of con- 
cepts, and therefore those elements of reality are the most 
important which are most generally found in that part of 
experience which constitutes the object-matter of a science. 
r^And thus for social psychology the importance of an attitude 
is proportionate to the number and variety of actions in 
which this attitude is manifested. The more generally an 
attitude is shared by the members of the given social group 
and the greater the part which it plays in the life of every 
member, the stronger the interest which it provokes in the 
social psychologist, while attitudes which are either peculiar 
to a few members of the group or which manifest themselves 
only on rare occasions have as such a relatively secondary 
significance, but may become significant through some con- 
nection with more general and fundamental attitudes. 1 

On the other hand, scientific generalizations are produc- 
tive and valuable only in so far as they help to discover cer- 
tain relations between various classes of the generalized 
data and to establish a systematic classification by a logical 
subordination and co-ordination of concepts; a generaliza- 
tion which bears no relation to others is useless. Now, as 
the main body of the materials of social psychology is con- 
stituted by cultural attitudes, corresponding to variable and 
multiform cultural values, such elementary natural attitudes 
as correspond to stable and uniform physical conditions 
for example, attitudes manifested in sensual perception or 
in the action of eating in spite of their generality and prac- 
tical importance for the human race, can be usefully investi- 
gated-within the limits of this science only if a connection 

1 In connection, indeed, with the problems of both the creation and the de- 
struction of social values, the most exceptional and divergent attitudes may prove 
the most important ones, because they may introduce a crisis and an element of 
disorder. And to the social theorist and technician the disorderly individual is 
of peculiar interest as a destroyer of values, as i:i the case of the anti-social indi- 
vidual, and as a creator of values, as in the case^ of the man of genius. 


can be found between them and the cultural attitudes if, 
for example, it can be shown that sensual perception or the 
organic attitude of disgust varies within certain limits with 
the variation of social conditions. As long as there is no 
possibility of an actual subordination or co-ordination as 
^between the cultural and the natural attitudes, the natural 
attitudes have no immediate interest for social psychology, 
and their investigation remains a task of individual psychol- 
ogy. In other words, those conscious phenomena cor- 
responding to the physical world can be introduced into 
social psychology only if it can be shown that they are 
not purely "natural" independent of social conditions 
but also in some measure cultural influenced by social 

Thus, the field of social psychology practically comprises 
first of all the attitudes which are more or less generally 
found among the members of a social group, have a real 
importance in the life-organization of the individuals who 
have developed them, and manifest themselves in social 
activities of these individuals. This field can be indefinitely 
enlarged in two directions if the concrete problems of social 
psychology demand it. It may include attitudes which 
are particular to certain members of the social group or 
appear in the group only on rare occasions, as soon as they 
acquire for some reason a social importance; thus, some 
personal sexual idiosyncrasy will interest social psychology 
only if it becomes an object of imitation or of indignation 
to other members of the group or if it helps to an under- 
standing of more general sexual attitudes. On the other 
hand, the field of social psychology may be extended to such 
attitudes as manifest themselves with regard, not to the 
social, but to the physical, environment of the individual, 
as soon as they show themselves affected by social culture; 
for example, the perception of colors would become a socio- 



psychological problem if it proved to have evolved during 

the cultural evolution under the influence of decorative arts. 

Social psychology has thus to perform the part of a 

, general science of the subjective side of social culture which 
we have heretofore usually ascribed to individual psychol- 

J ogy or to "psychology in general." It may claim to be the 
science of consciousness as manifested in culture,, and its 

i function is to render service, as a general auxiliary science, 
to all the special sciences dealing with various spheres of 

* social values. This does not mean that social psychology 
can ever supplant individual psychology; the methods and 
standpoints of these two sciences are too different to permit 
either of them to fulfil the function of the other, and, if it 
were not for the traditional use of the term "psychology" 
for both types of research, it would be even advisable to 
emphasize this difference by a distinct terminology. 

But when we study the life of a concrete social group we 
find a certain very important side of this life which social 
psychology cannot adequately take into account, which 
none of the special sciences of culture treats as its proper 
object-matter, and which during the last fifty years has con- 
stituted the central sphere of interest of the various re- 
searches called sociology. Among the attitudes prevailing 
within a group some express themselves only in individual 
actions uniform or multiform, isolated or combined but 
only in actions. But there are other attitudes usually, 
though not always, the most general ones which, besides 
expressing themselves directly, like the first, in actions, find f\ 
also an indirect manifestation in more or less explicit and / I 
formal r.ules of behavior by which the group tends to main- / j 
tain, to regulate, and to make more general and more fre- \ 
quent the corresponding type of actions among its members. 
These rules customs and rituals, legal and educational 
norms, obligatory beliefs and aims, etc. arouse a twofold 


interest. We may treat them, like actions, as manifesta- 
tions of attitudes, as indices showing that, since the group 
demands a certain kind of actions, the attitude which is 
supposed to manifest itself in these actions is shared by all 
those who uphold the rule. But, on the other hand, the very 
existence of a rule shows that there are some, even if only 
weak and isolated, attitudes which do not fully harmonize 
with the one expressed in the rule, and that the group feels 
the necessity of preventing these attitudes from passing into 
'action. Precisely as far as the rule is consciously realized 
as binding by individual members of the group from whom 
it demands a certain adaptation, it has for every individual 
a certain content^and a_certain meaning and is a value. 
Furthermore, the action of an individual viewed byHieT 
group, by another individual, or even by himself in reflec- 
tion, with regard to this action's agreement or disagreement 
with the rule, becomes also a value to which a certain atti- 
tude of appreciation or depreciation is attached in various 
forms. In this way rules and actions, taken, not with regard 
to the attitudes expressed in them, but with regard to the 
attitudes prgvokedjpy them, are quite analogous to any other 
values economic, artistic, scientific, religious, etc. There 
may be many various attitudes corresponding to a rule or 
action as objects of individual reflection and appreciation, 
and a certain attitude such as, for example, the desire for 
personal freedom or the feeling of social righteousness may 
bear positively or negatively upon many rules and actions, 
varying from group to group and from individual to indi- 
vidual. These values cannot, therefore, be the object- 
matter of social psychology; they constitute a special group 
of objective cultural data alongside the special domains of 
other cultural sciences like economics, theory of art, philol- 
ogy, etc. The rules of behavior, and the actions viewed 
as conforming or not conforming with these rules, constitute 


-ith regard to their objective significance a certain number { 
f more or less connected and harmonious systems which 
in be generally called social institutions, and the totality / 
' institutions found in a concrete social group constitutes 
ic social organization of this group. And when studying 
e social organization as such we must subordinate atti- 
des to values as we do in other special cultural sciences; 
at is, attitudes count for us only as influencing and modi- 
ing rules of behavior and social institutions. 
Sociology^ as theory of social organization, is thus a 
scial science of culture like economics or philology, and is 
so far opposed to social psychology as the general science 
the subjective side of culture. But at the same time it 
5 this fin common with social psychology: that the values 
ich it studies draw all their reality, alTtEeir power to 
laence human life, from the social attitudes which are 
)ressed or supposedly expressed in them; if the individual 
his behavior is so largely determined by the rules prevail- 
in his social group, it is certainly due neither to the 
ionality of these rules nor to the physical consequences 
ich their following or breaking may have, but to his con- 
Dusness that these rules represent attitudes of his group 
1 to his realization of the social consequences which will 
ue for him if he follows or breaks the rules. And there- 
e both social psychology and sociology can be embraced 
under the general term of social theory, as they are both 
concerned with the relation between the individual and the, 
concrete social group, though their standpoints on this com 
mon ground are quite opposite, and though their fields ar 
not equally wide, social psychology comprising the attitude 
of the individual toward all cultural values of the given 
social group, while sociology can study only one type of 
these values social rules in their relation to individual 


We have seen that social psychology has a central field 
of interest including the most general and fundamental cul- 
tural attitudes found within concrete societies. In the same 
manner there is a certain domain which constitutes the 
methodological center of sociological interest. It includes 
those rules of behavior which concern more especially the 
active relations between individual members of the group 
and between each member and the group as a whole. It is 
these rules, indeed, manifested as mores, laws, and group- 
ideals and systematized in such institutions as the family, 
the tribe, the community, the free association, the state, etc., 
which constitute the central part of social organization and 
provide through this organization the essential conditions 
of the existence of a group as a distinct cultural entity and 
not a mere agglomeration of individuals; and hence all 
other rules which a given group may develop and treat as 
obligatory have a secondary sociological importance \ as 
compared with these. But this does not mean that sociol- 
ogy should not extend its field of investigation beyond this 
methodological center of interest. Every social group, 
particularly on lower stages of cultural evolution, is inclined 
to control all individual activities, not alone those whicih 
attain directly its fundamental institutions. Thus we find 
social regulations of economic, religious, scientific, artistic 
activities, even of technique and speech, and the break of 
these regulations is often treated as affecting the very exist- 
ence of the group. And we must concede that, though the 
effect of these regulations on cultural productivity is often 
more than doubtful, they do contribute as long as they last 
to the unity of the group, while, on the other hand, the close 
association which has been formed between these rules and 
the fundamental social institutions without which the group 
cannot exist has often the consequence that cultural evolu- 
tion which destroys the influence of these secondary regula- 


tions may actually disorganize the group. Precisely as far 
as these social rules concerning special cultural activities 
are in the above-determined way connected with the rules 
which bear on social relations they acquire an interest fop 
sociology. Of course it can be determined only a posteriori 
how far the field of sociology sjifl^lnbe extended beyond the 
investigation of fundamental social institutions, and the 
situation varies from group to group and from period to 
period. In all civilized societies some part of every cultural 
activity religious, economic, scientific, artistic, etc. is 
left outside of social regulation, and another, perhaps even 
larger, part, though still subjected to social rules, is no 
longer supposed to affect directly the existence or coherence 
of society and actually does not affect it. It is^thereforeTa 
rave methodological error to attempt to include generally 
in the field of sociology such cultural domains as religion 
or economics on the ground that in certain social groups 
religious or economic norms are considered and in some 
measure even really are a part of social organization, for 
even there the respective values have a content which cannot 
be completely reduced to social rules of behavior, and their 
importance for social organization may be very small or 
even none in other societies or at other periods of evolution. 

The fundamental distinction between social psychology 
and sociology appears clearly when we undertake the com- 
parative study of special problems in various societies, for 
these problems naturally divide themselves into two classes. 
We may attempt to explain certain attitudes by tracing their 
origin and trying to determine the laws of their appearance 
under various social circumstances, as, for example, when 
we investigate sexual love or feeling of group-solidarity, 
bashfulness or showing off, the mystical emotion or the 
aesthetic amateur attitude, etc. Or we may attempt to give 


an explanation of social institutions and try to subject to 
laws their appearance under various socio-psychological 
conditions, as when our object-matter is marriage or family, 
criminal legislation or censorship of scientific opinions, mili- 
tarism or parliamentarism, etc. But when we study mono- 
graphically a concrete social group with all its fundamental 
attitudes and values, it is difficult to make a thoroughgoing 
separation of socio-psychological and sociological problems, 
for any concrete body of material contains both. Con- 
sequently, since the present work, and particularly its first 
two volumes, is precisely a monograph of a concrete social 
group, we cannot go into a detailed analysis of methodologi- 
cal questions concerning exclusively the socio-psychological 
or sociological investigation in particular, but must limit 
ourselves to such general methodological indications as 
concern both. Later, in connection with problems treated 
in subsequent volumes, more special methodological dis- 
cussions may be necessary and will be introduced in their 
proper place. 

The chief problems of modern science are problems of 
causal explanation. The determination and systematiza- 
tion of data is only the first step in scientific investigation. 
If a science wishes to lay the foundation of a technique, it 
must attempt to understand and to control the process of 
becoming. Social theory cannot avoid this task, and there 
is only one way of fulfilling it. Social becoming, like natural 
becoming, must be analyzed into a plurality of facts, each 
of which represents a succession of cause and effect. The 
idea of social theory is the analysis of the totality of social 
becoming into such causal processes and a systematization 
permitting us to understand the connections between these 
processes. No arguments a priori trying to demonstrate 
the impossibility of application of the principle of causality 
to conscious human life in general can or should halt social 


'theory in tending to this idea, whatever difficulties there 
may be in the way, because as a matter of fact we continually 
do apply the principle of causality to the social world in our 
activity and in our thought, and we shall always do this as 
long as we try to control social becoming in any form. So, 
instead of fruitlessly discussing the justification of this appli- 
cation in the abstract, social theory must simply strive to 
make it more methodical and perfect in the concrete by 
the actual process of investigation. 

But if the general philosophical problem of free will and 
determinism is negligible, the particular problem of the best I 
possible method of causal explanation is very real. Indeed, \ 
its solution is the fundamental and inevitable introductory 
task of a science which, like social theory, is still in the period 
of formation. The great and most usual illusion of the 
scientist is that he simply takes the facts as they are, without 
any methodological prepossessions, and gets his explanation 
entirely a posteriori from pure experience. A fact by itself ^ 
is already an abstraction; we isolate a certain limited aspect 
of the concrete process of becoming, rejecting, at least 
provisionally, all its indefinite complexity. The question 
is only whether we perform this abstraction methodically 
or not, whether we know what and why we accept and reject, 
or simply take uncritically the old abstractions of "common 
sense." If we want to reach scientific explanations, we must 
keep in mind that our facts must be determined in such a * 
way as to permit of their subordination to general laws. A 
fact which cannot be treated as a manifestation of one or . 
several laws is inexplicable causally. When, for example, 
the historian speaks of the causes of the present war, he must 
assume that the war is a combination of the effects of many 
causes, each of which may repeat itself many times in history 
and must have always the same effect, although such a com- 
bination of these causes as has produced the present war 


may never happen again. And only if social theory suc- 
ceeds in determining causal laws can it become a basis of 
social technique, for technique demands the possibility of 
foreseeing and calculating the effects of given causes, and 
this demand is realizable only if we know that certain causes 
will always and everywhere produce certain effects. 

Now, the chief error of both social practice and social 
theory has been that they determined, consciously or uncon- 
sciously, social facts in a way which excluded in advance the 
possibility of their subordination to any laws. The implicit 
or explicit assumption was that a sociaj. fact is composed of 
two elements, a cause which is either a social phenomenon 
or an individual act, and an effect which is either an indi- 
vidual act or a social phenomenon. Following uncritically 
the example of the physical sciences, which always tend to 
find the one determined phenomenon which is the necessarv 
and sufficient condition of another phenomenon, soci 
theory and social practice have forgotten to take in 
account one essential difference between physical and soci 
reality, which is that, while the effect of a physical phenor 
enon depends exclusively on the objective nature of th 
phenomenon and can be calculated on the ground of tl 
latter's empirical content, the effect of a social phenomenc 
depends in addition on the subjective standpoint taken b 
the individual or the group toward this phenomenon an 
can be calculated only if we know, not only the objectrv 
*^S content of the assumed cause, but also the meaning which i 
has at the given moment for the given conscious beingi 
This simple consideration should have shown to the socis 
theorist or technician that a social cause cannot be simple 
like a physical cause, but is compound, and must includ* 
both an objective and a subjective element, a value and ai 
attitude. Otherwise the effect will appear accidental am 
incalculable, because we shall have to search in every par 


ticular case for the reasons why this particular individual 
or this particular society reacted to the given phenomenon 
in this way and not in any other way. 

In fact, a social value, acting upon individual members 
of the group, produces a more or less different effect on every 
one of them; even when acting upon the same individual at 
various moments it does not influence him uniformly. The 
influence of a work of art is a typical example. And such 
uniformities as exist here are quite irrelevant, for they are 
not absolute. If we once suppose that a social phenomenon 
is the cause which means a necessary and sufficient cause, 
for there are no "insufficient" causes of an individual re- 
action, then our statement of this causal dependence has 
the logical claim of being a scientific law from which there 
can be no exceptions; that is, every seeming exception must 
be explained by the action of some other cause, an action 
whose formulation becomes another scientific law. But to 
explain why in a concrete case a work of art or a legal pre- 
scription which, according to our supposed law, should pro- 
voke in the individual a certain reaction A provokes instead 
a reaction B, we should have to investigate the whole past 
of this individual and repeat this investigation in every case, 
with regard to every individual whose reaction is not A, 
without hoping ever to subordinate those exceptions to a new 
law, for the life-history of every individual is different. Con- 
sequently social theory tries to avoid this methodological 
absurdity by closing its eyes to the problem itself. It is 
either satisfied with statements of causal influences which 
hold true "on the average," "in the majority of cases" a 
flat self-contradiction, for, if something is a cause, it must 
have by its very definition, always and necessarily the same 
effect, otherwise it is not a cause at all. Or it tries to analyze 
phenomena acting upon individuals and individual reactions 
to them into simpler elements, hoping thus to find simple 


facts, while the trouble is not with the complexity of data, 
but with the complexity of the context on which these data 
act or in which they are embodied that is, of the human 
personality. Thus, as far as the complexity of social data 
is concerned, the principle of gravitation and the smile of 
Mona Lisa are simple in their objective content, while their 
influence on human attitudes has been indefinitely varied; 
the complex system of a graphomaniac or the elaborate 
picture of a talentless and skilless man provokes much more 
uniform reactions. And, on the individual side, the simple 
attitude of anger can be provoked by an indefinite variety 
of social phenomena, while the very complicated attitude 
of militant patriotism appears usually only in very definite 
social conditions. 

But more than this. Far from obviating the problem of 
individual variations, such uniformities of reaction to social 
influences as can be found constitute a problem in them- 
selves. For with the exception of the elementary reactions 
to purely physical stimuli, which may be treated as identical 
because of the identity of "human nature" and as such 
belong to individual psychology, all uniformities with which 
social psychology has to deal are the product of social con- 
ditions. If the members of a certain group react in an 
identical way to certain values, it is because they have been 
socially trained to react thus, because the traditional rules 
of behavior predominant in the given group impose upon 
every member certain ways of defining and solving the 
practical situations which he meets in his life. But the very 
success of this social training, the very fact that individual 
members do accept such definitions and act in accordance 
with them, is no less a problem than the opposite fact the 
frequent insuccess of the training, the growing assertion of 
the personality, the growing variation of reaction to social 
rules, the search for personal definitions which character- 



izes civilized societies. And thus, even if we find that all 
, the members of a social group react in the same way to a 
] certain value, still we cannot assume that this value alone 
{ is the cause of this reaction, for the latter is also conditioned 
1 by the uniformity of attitudes prevailing in the group ; and 
this uniformity itself cannot be taken as granted and 
omitted as we omit the uniformity of environing conditions 
in a physical fact because it is the particular effect of cer- 
tain social rules acting upon the members of the group who, 
because of certain predispositions, have accepted these rules, 
.and this effect may be at any moment counterbalanced 
by the action of different causes, and is in fact counter- 
balanced more and more frequently with the progress of 

In short, when spcjaj_theory assumes that a certain social 
value is of itself the cause of. a certain individual reaction, 
it is then forced to ask: "But why did this value produce 
this particular effect when acting on this particular indi- 
vidual or group at this particular moment ? " Certainly no 
scientific answer to such a question is possible, since in order 
to explain this "why" we should have to know the whole 
past of the individual, of the society, and of the universe. 

Analogous methodological difficulties arise when social 
theory attempts to explain a change in social organization as 
a result of the activity of the members of the group. If we 
\ treat individual activity as a cause of social changes, every 
change appears as inexplicable,/! particularly when it is 
I "original," presents many new features. Necessarily this 
point is one of degree, for every product of individual activ- 
ity is in a sense a new value and in so far original as it has not 
existed before this activity, but in certain cases the impor- 
tance of the change brought by the individual makes its incal- 
culable and inexplicable character particularly striking. We 
have therefore almost despaired of extending consistently 


the principle of causality to the activities of "great men," 
while it still seems to us that we do understand the everyday 
productive activity of the average human individual or of 
the "masses." From the methodological standpoint, how- 
ever, it is neither more nor less difficult to explain the greatest 
changes brought into the social world by a Charles the Great, 
a Napoleon, a Marx, or a Bismarck than to explain a small 
change brought by a peasant who starts a lawsuit against 
his relatives or buys a piece of land to increase his farm. 
The work of the great man, like that of the ordinary man, 
s the result of his tendency to modify the existing conditions, 
of his attitude toward his social environment which makes 
him reject certain existing values and produce certain new 
values. The difference is in the values which are the object 
of the activity, in the nature, importance, complexity, of the 
social problems put and solved. The change in social or- 
ganization produced by a great man may be thus equivalent 
to an accumulation of small changes brought by millions of 
ordinary men, but the idea that a creative process is more 
explicable when it lasts for several generations than when 
it is performed in a few months or days, or that by dividing 
a creative process into a million small parts we destroy its 
irrationality, is equivalent to the conception that by a proper 
combination of mechanical elements in a machine we can 
produce a perpetuum mobile. 

The simple and well-known fact is that the social results 
of individual activity depend, not only on the action itself, 
but also on the social conditions in which it is performed; 
and therefore the cause of a social change must include both 
individual and social elements. By ignoring this, social 
theory faces an infinite task whenever it wants to explain the 
simplest social change. For the same action in different 
social conditions produces quite different results. It is true 
that if social conditions are sufficiently stable the results of 



certain individual actions are more or less determinable, at 
least in a sufficient majority of cases to permit an approxi- 
mate practical calculation. We know that the result of the 
activity of a factory-workman will be a certain technical 
product, that the result of the peasant's starting a lawsuit 
against a member of his family will be a dissolution of family 
bonds between him and this member, that the result of a 
judge's activity in a criminal case will be the condemnation 
and incarceration of the offender if he is convicted. But all 
this holds true only if social conditions remain stable. In 
case of a strike in the factory, the workman will not be 
allowed to finish his product ; assuming that the idea of family 
solidarity has ceased to prevail in a peasant group, the law- 
suit will not provoke moral indignation ; if the action upon 
which the judge has to pronounce this verdict ceases to be 
treated as a crime because of a change of political conditions 
or of public opinion, the offender, even if convicted, will be 
set free. A method which permits us to determine only 
cases of stereotyped activity and leaves us helpless in face 
of changed conditions is not a scientific method at all, and 
becomes even less and less practically useful with the con- 
tinual increase of fluidity in modern social life. 

Moreover, social theory forgets aiso that the uniformity 
of results of certain actions is itself a problem and demands 
explanation exactly as much as do the variations. For the 
stability of social conditions upon which the uniformity of 
results of individual activity depends is itself a product of 
former activities, not an original natural status which might 
be assumed as granted. Both its character and its degree 
vary from group to group and from epoch to epoch. A cer- 
tain action may have indeed determined and calculable 
effects in a certain society and at a certain period, but will 
have completely -^different effects in other societies and at 
other periods. 


And thus social theory is again confronted by a scien- 
tifically absurd question. Assuming that individual activ- 
ity in itself is the cause of social effects, it must then ask: 
"Why does a certain action produce this particular effect 
at this particular moment in this particular society ? " The 
answer to this question would demand a complete explana- 
tion of the whole status of the given society at the given 
moment, and thus force us to investigate the entire past of 
the universe. &w v \,V> t^^>W^ Qu^CCo f 

The fundamental methodological principle of both social 
psychology and sociology the principle without which they 
^an never reach scientific explanation is therefore the fol- 
lowing one: 

The cause of a social or individual phenomenon is never 
another social or individual phenomenon alone, but always a 
combination of a social and an individual phenomenon. 

Or, in more exact terms: 

The cause of a value or of an attitude is never an attitude 
or a value alone, but always a combination of an attitude and a 
value. 1 

It is only by the application of this principle that we can 
remove the difficulties with which social theory and social 
practice have struggled. If we wish to explain the appear- 
ance of a new attitude^ whether in one individual or in a 
whole group we know that this attitude appeared as a con- 
sequence of the influence of a social value upon the individual 
or the group, but we know also that this influence itself 

1 It may be objected that we have neglected to criticize the conception accord- 
ing to which the cause of a social phenomenon is to be sought, not in an individual, 
but exclusively in another social phenomenon (Durkheim). But a criticism of 
this conception is implie^Si the previous discussion of the data of social theory. 
As these data are boER^alues and attitudes, a fact must include both, and a suc- 
cession of values alone cannot constitute a fact. Of course much depends also on 
what we call a "social" phenomenon. An attitude may be treated a. a social 
phenomenon as opposed to the "state of consciousness" of individual psychology; 
but it is individual, even if common to all members of a group, when we oppose 
it to a value. 


would have been impossible unless there had been some pre- 
existing attitude, some wish, emotional habit, or intellec- 
tual tendency, to which this value has in some way appealed, 
favoring it, contradicting it, giving it a new direction, or 
stabilizing its hesitating expressions. Our problem is there-^) 
fore to find both the value and the pre-existing attitude upon 
which it has acted and get in their combination the necesj 
sary and sufficient cause of the new attitude. We shall not 
be forced then to ask: "Why did this value provoke in this 
case such a reaction ?" because the answer will be included 
in the fact in the pre-existing attitude to which this value 
appealed. ' Our fact will bear its explanation in itself, just 
as the physical fact of the movement of an elastic body B 
when struck by another elastic moving body A bears its 
explanation in itself. We may, if we wish, ask for a more 
detailed explanation, not only of the appearance of the new 
attitude, but also for certain specific characters of this atti- 
tude, in the same way as we may ask for an explanation, not 
only of the movement of the body B in general, but also of 
the rapidity and direction of this movement ; but the prob- 
lem always remains limited, and the explanation is within 
the fact, in the character of the pre-existing attitude and of 
the influencing value, or in the masses of the bodies A and B 
and the rapidity and direction of their movements previous 
to their meeting. We can indeed pass from the given fact 
to the new one ask, for example, "How did it happen that 
this attitude to which the value appealed was there ? " or, 
"How did it happen that the body A moved toward B until 
they met ? " But this question again will find its limited and 
definite answer if we search in the same way for the cause 
of the pre-existing attitude in some other attitude and value, 
or of the movement in some other movement. 

Let us take some examples from the following volumes. 
Two individuals, under the influence of a tyrannical behavior 


in their fathers, develop completely different attitudes. 
One shows submission, the other secret revolt and resent- 
ment. If the father's tyranny is supposed to be the cause 
of these opposite attitudes, we must know the whole char- 
acter of these individuals and their whole past in order to 
explain the difference of effect. But if we realize that the 
tyranny is not the sole cause of both facts, but only a com- 
| mon, element which enters into the composition of two differ- 
( ent causes, our simple task will be to find the other elements 
of these causes. We can find them, if our materials are 
sufficient, in certain persisting attitudes of these individuals 
as expressed in words or actions. We form hypotheses 
which acquire more and more certainty as we compare many 
similar cases. We thus reach the conclusion that the other 
element of the cause is, in the first case, the attitude of 
familial solidarity, in the second case, the individualistic 
tendency to assert one's own personal desires. We have 
thus two completely different facts, and we do not need to 
search farther. The difference of effects is obviously ex- 
plained by the difference of causes and is necessarily what 
it is. The cause of the attitude of submission is the attitude 
of familial solidarity plus the tyranny of the father; the cause 
of the attitude of revolt is the tendency to self-assertion 
plus the tyranny of the father. 

As another example this time a mass-phenomenon we 
take the case of the Polish peasants from certain western 
communities who go to Germany for season-work and show 
there uniformly a desire to do as much piece-work as pos- 
sible and work as hard as they can in order to increase their 
earnings, while peasants of these same communities and even 
the same individual peasants when they stay at home and 
work during the season on the Polish estates accept only 
day-work and refuse piece-work under the most ridiculous 
pretexts. We should be inclined to ascribe this difference 


of attitudes to the difference of conditions, and in fact both 
the peasants and the Polish estate-owners give this explana- 
tion, though they differ as to the nature of causes. The 
peasants say that the conditions of piece-work are less 
favorable in Poland than in Germany; the estate-owners 
claim that the peasants in Germany are more laborious 
because intimidated by the despotism of German estate- 
owners and farm-managers. Both contentions are wrong. 
The conditions of piece-work as compared with day-work 
are certainly not less favorable in Poland than in Germany, 
and the peasants are more laborious in Germany on their 
own account, regardless of the very real despotism which 
they find there. To be sure, the conditions are different ; the 
whole social environment differs. The environment, how- 
ever, is not the sufficient cause of the attitudes. The point is 
that the peasant who goes to Germany is led there by the 
desire of economic advance, and this attitude predominates 
during the whole period of season- work, not on account of the 
conditions themselves, but through the feeling of being in 
definite new conditions, and produces the desire to earn more 
by piece-work. On the contrary, the peasant who stays at 
home preserves for the time being his old attitude toward 
work as a "necessary evil," and this attitude, under the 
influence of traditional ideas about the conditions of work 
on an estate, produces the unwillingness to accept piece- 
work. Here both components of the cause pre-existing 
attitude and value-idea differ, and evidently the effects 
must be different. 

If now we have to explain the appearance of a social 
value, we know that this value is a product of the activity 
of an individual or a number of individuals, and in so far 
dependent on the attitude of which this activity is the expres- 
sion. But we know also that this result is inexplicable 
unless we take into consideration the value (or complex of 


values) which was the starting-point and the social material 
of activity and which has conditioned the result as much as 
did the attitude itself. (The new value is the result of the 
solution of a problem set by the pre-existing value and the 
active attitude together; it is the common effect of both of 
them.' The product of an activity even of a mechanical 
activity, such as a manufactured thing acquires its full 
social reality only when it enters into social life, becomes the 
object of the attitudes of the group, is socially valued. And/ 
we can understand this meaning, which is an essential part 
of the effect, only if we know what was the social situa- 
tion when the activity started, what was the social value 
upon which the individual (or individuals) specially acted 
and which might have been quite different from the one upon 
which he intended to act and imagined that he acted. If 
we once introduce this pre-existing value into the fact as the 
necessary component of the cause, the effect the new 
value will be completely explicable and we shall not be 
forced to ask: "Why is it that this activity has brought in 
these conditions this particular effect instead of the effect 
it was intended to bring ?" any more than physics is forced 
to ask: "Why is it that an elastic body struck by another 
elastic body changes the direction and rapidity of its move- 
ment instead of changing merely its rapidity or merely its 

To take some further examples, the American social insti- 
tutions try, by a continuous supervision and interference, to 
develop a strong marriage-group organization among the 
Polish immigrants who begin to show certain signs of decay 
of family life or among whom the relation between husband 
and wife and children does not come up to the American 
standards in certain respects. The results of this activity 
are quite baffling. Far from being constructive of new 
values, the interference proves rather destructive in a great 


majority of cases, in spite of the best efforts of the most 
intelligent social workers. In a few cases it does not seem 
to affect much the existing state of things; sometimes, in- 
deed, though very seldom, it does bring good results. This 
very variation makes the problem still more complicated and 
difficult. To explain the effects, the social workers try to 
take into consideration the whole life-history and char- 
acter of the individuals with whom they deal, but without 
progressing much in their efforts. The whole misunder- 
standing comes from the lack of realization that the Polish 
immigrants here, though scattered and losing most of their 
social coherence, are still not entirely devoid of this coherence 
and constitute vague and changing but as yet, in some 
measure, real communities, and that these communities 
have brought from the old country several social institutions, 
among which the most important is the family institution. 
In new conditions these institutions gradually dissolve, and 
we shall study this process in later volumes. But the disso- 
lution is not sudden or universal, and thus the American 
social worker in his activity meets, without realizing it, a 
set of social values which are completely strange to him, 
and which his activity directly affects without his knowing 
it. As far as the family organization is concerned, any inter- 
ference of external powers political or social authorities 
must act dissolvingly upon it, because it affects the funda- 
mental principle of the family as a social institution the 
principle of solidarity. An individual who accepts external 
interference in his favor against a family member sins against 
this principle, and a break of family relations must be 
thus the natural consequence of the well-intentioned but 
insufficiently enlightened external activities. The effect is 
brought, not by these activities alone, but by the combina- 
tion of these activities and the pre-existing peasant family 
organization. Of course, if the family organization is 


different if, for example, in a given case the marriage-group 
has already taken the place of the large family the effect 
will be different because the total cause is different. Or, if 
instead of trie protective and for the peasant incompre- 
hensible attitude of the social worker or court officer a 
different attitude is brought into action if, ^for example, 
the family is surrounded by a strong and solidary community 
of equals who, from the standpoint of communal solidarity, 
interfere with family relations, just as they do hi the old 
country again the effect will be different because the other 
component of the cause the attitude as expressed in action 
is no longer the same. 

Another interesting example is the result of the national 
persecution of the Poles in Prussia, the aim of which was to 
destroy Polish national cohesion. Folio whig all the efforts 
which the powerful Prussian state could bring against the 
Poles, national cohesion has in a very large measure in- 
creased, and the national organization has included such 
elements as were before the persecution quite indifferent to 
national problems the majority of the peasants and of the 
lower city classes. The Prussian government had not real- 
ized the existence and strength of the communal solidarity 
principle in the lower classes of Polish society, and by attack- 
ing certain vital interests of these classes, religious and 
economic, it contributed more than the positive efforts of 
the intelligent Polish class could have done to the develop- 
ment of this principle and to its extension over the whole 
Polish society in Posen, Silesia, and West Prussia. 

These examples of the result of the violation of our 
methodological rule could be multiplied indefinitely from the 
field of social reform. The common tendency of reformers / 
is to construct a rational scheme of the social institution 
they wish to see produced or abolished, and then to formu- 
late an ideal plan of social activities which would perhaps 


lead to a realization of their scheme if social life were merely 
a sum of individual actions, every one of them starting 
afresh without any regard for tradition, every one having its 
source exclusively in the psychological nature of the indi- 
vidual and capable of being completely directed, by well- 
selected motives, toward definite social aims. IJut as social 
reality contains, not only individual acts, but also social 
institutions, not only attitudes, but also values fixed by 
tradition and conditioning the attitudes, these values co- 
operate in the production of the final effect quite independ- 
ently, and often in spite of the intentions of the social 
reformer. Thus the socialist, if he presupposes that a soli- 
dary and well-directed action of the masses will realize the 
scheme of a perfect socialistic organization, ignores com- 
pletely the influence of the whole existing social organization 
which will co-operate with the revolutionary attitudes of 
the masses in producing the new organization, and this, not 
only because of the opposition of those who will hold to the 
traditional values, but also because many of those values, as 
socially sanctioned rules for defining situations, will continue 
to condition many attitudes of the masses themselves and 
will thus be an integral part of the causes of the final effect. 
Of course we do not assert that the proper way of formu- 
lating social facts is never used by social theory or reflective 
social practice. On the contrary, we very frequently find 
it applied in the study of particular cases, and it is naively 
used in everyday business and personal relations. We use 
it in all cases involving argument and persuasion. The busi- 
ness man, the shopkeeper, and the politician use it very 
subtly. We have been compelled in the case of our juvenile 
delinquents to allow the judges to waive^the formal and 
incorrect conception of social facts and to substitute in the 
case of the child the proper formula. But the point is that 
this formula has never been applied with any consistency 


and systematic development, while the wrong formula has 
been used very thoroughly and has led to such imposing 
systems as, in reflective practice, the whole enormous and 
continually growing complexity of positive law, and in 
social theory to the more recent and limited, but rapidly 
growing, accumulation of works on political science, philos- 
ophy of law, ethics, and sociology. {At every step we try 
to enforce certain attitudes upon other individuals without 
stopping to consider what are their dominant attitudes in 
general or their prevailing attitudes at the given moment; 
at every step we try to produce certain social values without 
taking into account the values which are already there and 
upon which the result of our efforts will depend as much as 
upon our intention and persistence^ 

The chief source of this great methodological mistake, 
whose various consequences we have shown in the first part 
of this note, lay probably in the fact that social theory and 
reflective practice started with problems of political and 
legal organization. Having thus to deal with the relatively 
uniform attitudes and relatively permanent conditions which 
characterized civilized societies several thousand years ago, 
and relying besides upon physical force as a supposedly infal- 
lible instrument for the production of social uniformity and 
stability whenever the desirable attitudes were absent, 
social theory and reflective practice have been capable of 
holding and of developing, without remarking its absurdity, 
a standpoint which would be scientifically and technically 
justifiable only if human attitudes were absolutely and 
universally uniform and social conditions absolutely and 
universally stable. 

A systematic application and development of the 
methodological rules stated above would necessarily lead 
in a completely different direction. Its final result would 


not be a system of definitions, like law and special parts of 
political science, nor a system of the philosophical deter- 
mination of the essence of certain data, like philosophy of 
law, the general part of political science, ethics, and many 
sociological works, nor a general outline of social evolution, 
like the sociology of the Spencerian school or the philosophies 
of history, but a system of laws of social becoming, in which 
definitions, philosophical determinations of essence, and 
outlines of evolution would play the same part as they do in 
physical science that is, would constitute either instru- 
ments helping to analyze reality and to find laws, or conclu- 
sions helping to understand the general scientific meaning 
and the connection of laws. 

It is evident that such a result can be attained only by 
a long and persistent co-operation of social theoricians. It 
took almost four centuries to constitute physical science in 
its present form, and, though the work of the social scientist 
is incalculably facilitated by the long training in scientific 
thinking in general which has been acquired by mankind 
since the period of the renaissance, it is on the other hand 
made more difficult by certain characters of the social world 
as compared with the natural world. We do not include 
among these difficulties the complexity of the social world 
which has been so often and unreflectively emphasized. 
Complexity is a relative characteristic; it depends on the 
method and the purpose of analysis. Neither the social 
nor the natural world presents any ready and absolutely 
simple elements, and in this sense they are both equally 
complex, because they are both infinitely complex. But 
this complexity is a metaphysical, not a scientific, problem. 
In science we treat any datum as a simple element if it be- 
haves as such in all the combinations in which we find it, and 
any fact is a simple fact which can indefinitely repeat itself 
that is, in which the relation between cause and effect can 


be assumed to be permanent and necessary. And in this 
respect it is still a problem whether the social world will not 
prove much less complex than the natural world if only we 
analyze its data and determine its facts by proper methods. 
The prepossession of complexity is due to the naturalistic way 
of treating the social reality. If it is maintained that the 
social world has to be treated as an expression or a product 
of the psychological, physiological, or biological nature of 
human beings, then, of course, it appears as incomparably 
more complex than the natural world, because to the already 
inexhaustibly complex conscious human organism as a part 
of nature is added the fact that in a social group there are 
numerous and various human beings interacting in the most 
various ways. But if we study the social world, without 
any naturalistic prepossessions, simply as a plurality of 
specific data, causally interconnected in a process of becom- 
ing, the question of complexity is no more baffling for social 
theory, and may even prove less so, than it is for physical 
science. """1 

The search for laws does not actually present any special 
difficulties if our facts have been acjequajrely determin^. 
When we have found that a certain effecTis produced by a 
certain cause, the formulation of this causal dependence has 
in itself the character of a law; that is, we assume that 
whenever this cause repeats itself the effect will necessarily 
follow. The further need is to explain apparent exceptions. 
But this need of explanation, which is the stumbling-block 
of a theory that has defined its facts inadequately, becomes, 
on the contrary, a factor of progress when the proper method 
is employed. For when we know that a certain cause can 
have only one determined effect, when we have assumed, for 
example, that the attitude A plus the value B is the cause of 
the attitude C, then if the presumed cause A -\-B is there and 
the expected effect C does not appear, this means either that 


we have been mistaken in assuming that A +B was the cause 
of C, or that the action of A -\-B was interfered with by the 
action of some other cause A -f- Y or X-\-B or X-\- Y. In the 
first case the exception gives us the possibility of correcting 
our error; in the second case it permits us to extend our 
knowledge by finding a new causal connection, by determin- 
ing the partly or totally unknown cause A-\-Y or X-\-B or 
X-\-Y which has interfered with the action of our known 
case A -\-B and brought a complex effect D = C-\-Z, instead 
of the expected C. And thus the exception from a law 
becomes the starting-point for the discovery of a new law. 

This explanation of apparent exceptions being the only 
logical demand that can be put upon a law, it is evident that 
the difference between particular and general laws is only a 
difference of the field of application, not one of logical validity. 
Suppose we find in the present work some laws concerning 
the social life of Polish peasants showing that whenever 
there is a pre-existing attitude A and the influence of a 
value B, another attitude C appears, or whenever there is 
a value D and an activity directed by an attitude E, a 
ne^v value F is the effect. If the causes A+B and D-\-E 
are found only in the social life of the Polish peasants and 
nowhere else, because some of their components the atti- 
tudes or values involved are peculiar to the Polish peasants, 
then, of course, the laws A-\-B = C and D-\-E=F will be 
particular laws applicable only to the Polish peasant society, 
but within these limits as objectively valid as others which 
social theory may eventually find of applicability to human- 
ity in general. We cannot extend them beyond these 
limits and do not need to extend them. But the situation 
will be different if the attitudes A and E and the values B 
and D are not peculiar to the Polish peasant society, and 
thus the causes A-\-B and D+E can be found also in other 
societies. Then the laws A +B = C and D-\-E = F, based on 


facts discovered among Polish peasants, will have quite a 
different meaning. But we cannot be sure whether they are 
valid for other societies until we have found that in other 
societies the causes A-\-B and D-\-E produce the same 
respective effects C and F. And since we cannot know 
whether these values and attitudes will be found or not hi 
other societies until we have investigated these societies, 
the character of our laws must remain until then unde- 
termined; we cannot say definitely whether they are abso- 
lutely valid though applicable only to the Polish peasants 
or only hypothetically valid although applicable to all 

The problem of laws being the most important one of 
methodology, we shall illustrate it in detail from two con- 
crete examples. Of course we do not really assert that the 
supposed laws which we use in these illustrations are already 
established ; some of them are still hypotheses, others even 
mere fictions. The purpose is to give an insight into the 
mechanism of the research. 

Let us take as the first example the evolution of the eco- 
nomic life of the Polish peasant as described hi the intro- 
duction to the first and second volumes of this work. We 
find there, first, a system of familial economic organization 
with a thoroughly social and qualitative character of eco- 
nomic social values, succeeded by an individualistic system 
with a quantification of the values. This succession as such 
does not determine any social fact; we obtain the formula 
of facts only if we find the attitude that constructs the 
second system out of the first. Now, this attitude is the 
tendency to economic advance, and thus our empirical facts 
are subsumed to the formula : familial system tendency to 
advance individualistic system. The same facts being 
found generally among Polish peasants of various localities, 
we can assume that this formula expresses a law, but whether 


it is a law applicable only to the Polish peasants or to all 
societies depends on whether such a familial economic 
organization associated with a tendency to advance results 
always and everywhere in an individualistic system. We 
may further determine that if we find the familial system, 
but instead of the tendency to economic advance another 
attitude for example, the desire to concentrate political 
power in the family the result will be different for 
example, the feudal system of hereditary estate. Or we 
may find that if the tendency to economic advance acts 
upon a different system for example, a fully developed 
economic individualism it will also lead to a different social 
formation for example, to the constitution of trusts. 
These other classes of facts may become in turn the bases 
of social hypotheses if they prove sufficiently general and 
uniform. But certainly, whether the law is particular or 
general, we must always be able to explain every seeming 
exception. For example, we find the familial system and 
the tendency to advance in a Polish peasant family group, 
but no formation of the individualistic system the family 
tends to advance as a' whole. In this case we must suppose 
that the evolution has been hindered by some factors which 
change the expected results. There may be, for example, 
a very strong attitude of family pride developed traditionally 
in all the members, as in families of peasant nobility who 
had particular privileges during the period of Poland's 
independence. In this case familial pride co-operating with 
the tendency to advance will produce a mixed system of 
economic organization, with quantification of values but 
without individualism. And if our law does not stand all 
these tests we have to drop it. But even then we may still 
suppose that its formulation was too general, that within the 
range of facts covered by these concepts a more limited and 
particular law could be discovered for example, that the 


system of "work for living," under the influence of the 
tendency to advance, becomes a system of "work for 

As another type of example we select a particular case 
of legal practice and attempt to show what assumptions are 
implicitly involved in it, what social laws are uncritically 
assumed, and try to indicate in what way the assumptions 
of common sense could be verified, modified, complemented, 
or rejected, so as to make them objectively valid. For, 
if science is only developed, systematized, and perfected 
common sense, the work required to rectify common sense 
before it becomes science is incomparably greater than is 
usually supposed. 

The case is simple. A Polish woman (K) has loaned to 
another (T) $300 at various times. After some years she 
claims her money back; the other refuses to pay. K goes 
to court. Both bring witnesses. The witnesses are exam- 
ined. First assumption of legal practice, which we may put 
into the form of a social law, is: "A witness who has sworn 
to tell the truth will tell the truth, unless there are reasons 
for exception." 1 But according to our definition there can 
be no such law where only two elements are given. There 
might be a law if we had (i) the oath (a social value); 
(2) an individual attitude $, still to be determined; (3) a 
true testimony. But here the second element is lacking; 
nobody lias determined the attitude which, in connection 
with the oath, results in a true testimony, and therefore, of 
course, nobody knows how to produce such an attitude. 
It is supposed that the necessary attitude whatever it is 

1 It is the formal side of this assumption, not the sphere of its application, 
that is important. Whether we admit few or many exceptions, whether we 
say, "The witness often [or sometimes] tells the truth," has not the slightest 
bearing on the problem of method. There is a general statement and a limitation 
of this statement, and both statement and limitation are groundless cannot be 
explained causally. 


appears automatically when the oath is taken. Naturally 
in many, if not in the majority of cases, the supposition 
proves false, and if it proves true, nobody knows why. In 
our case it proved mainly false. Not only the witnesses of 
the defense, but some of the witnesses of the plaintiff, were 
lying. What explanation is possible? We could, of 
course, if we knew what attitude is necessary for true 
testimony, determine why it was not there or what were the 
influences that hindered its action. But, not knowing it, 
we have simply to use some other common-sense generaliza- 
tion, such as: "If the witnesses are lying in spite of the 
oath, there is some interest involved personal, familial, 
friendly." And this was the generalization admitted in 
this case, and it has no validity whatever because it cannot 
be converted into a law; we cannot say that interest is the 
cause making people lie, but we must have again the 
tertium quid the attitude upon which the interest must act 
in order to produce a lie. And, on the other hand, a lie 
can be the result of other factors acting upon certain pre- 
existing attitudes, and this was precisely the case in the 
example we are discussing. The Polish peasants lie in court 
because they bring into court a fighting attitude. Once 
the suit is started, it becomes a fight where considerations 
of honesty or altruism are no longer of any weight, and the 
only problem is not to be beaten. Here we have, indeed, 
a formula that may become, if sufficiently verified, a socio- 
logical law the lawsuit and a radical fighting attitude result 
in false testimonies. Apparent exceptions will then be 
explained by influences changing either the situation of the 
lawsuit or the attitude. Thus, in the actual case, the 
essence of most testimonies for the plaintiff was true, 
namely, the claim was real. But the ctaim preceded the 
lawsuit; the peasant woman would probably not have 
started the lawsuit without a just claim, for as long as the 


suit was not started considerations of communal solidarity 
were accepted as binding, and a false claim would have 
been considered the worst possible offense. The situation 
preceding the suit was, in short : law permitting the recovery 
of money that the debtor refused to pay creditor's feeling 
of being wronged and desire of redress legal complaint. 
There was no cause making a false claim possible, for the 
law, subjectively for the peasant, can be here only a means 
of redress, not a means of illicit wrong, since he does not 
master it sufficiently to use it in a wrong way, and the desire 
of redress is the only attitude not offset by the feeling of 
communal solidarity. 

It would lead us too far if we analyzed all the assumptions 
made by legal practice in this particular case, but we 
mention one other. The attorney for the defense treated 
as absurd the claim of the plaintiff that she had loaned 
money without any determined interest, while she could 
have invested it at good interest and in a more secure way. 
The assumption was that, being given various possibilities 
of investing money, the subject will always select the one 
that is most economically profitable. We see here again 
the formal error of stating a law of two terms. The law 
can be binding only if the third missing term is inserted, 
namely, an attitude of the subject which we can express 
approximately: desire to increase fortune or income. Now, 
in the actual case, this attitude, if existing at all, was offset 
by the attitude of communal solidarity, and among the 
various possibilities of investing money, not the one that 
was economically profitable, but the one that gave satis- 
faction to the attitude of solidarity was selected?. * 

The form of legal generalization is typical for all general- 
izations which assume only one datum instead of two as 
sufficient to determine the effect. It then becomes neces- 
sary to add as many new generalizations of the same type 


as the current practice requires in order to explain the 
exceptions. These new generalizations limit the funda- 
mental one without increasing positively the store of our 
knowledge, and the task is inexhaustible. Thus, we may 
enumerate indefinitely the possible reasons for a witness 
not telling the truth in spite of the oath, and still this will 
not help us to understand why he tells the truth when he 
tells it. And with any one of these reasons of exception 
the case is the same. If we say that the witness does not 
tell the truth when it is contrary to his interest, we must 
again add indefinitely reasons of exception from this rule 
without learning why the witness lies when the truth is not 
contrary to his interest if he does. And so on. If in 
practice this process of accounting for exceptions, then for 
exceptions from these exceptions, etc., does not go on 
indefinitely, it is simply because, in a given situation, we 
can stop at a certain point with sufficient approximation to 
make our error not too harmful practically. . 

It is evident that the only way of verifying, correcting, 
and complementing the generalizations of common sense 
is to add in every case the missing third element. We 
cannot, of course, say in advance how much will remain of 
these generalizations after such a conversion into exact 
sociological laws; probably, as far as social theory is con- 
cerned, it will be more economical to disregard almost 
completely the results of common sense and to investigate 
along quite new and independent lines. But for the sake 
of an immediate improvement of social practice it may 
sometimes prove useful to take different domains of practi- 
cal activity and subject them to criticism. 

In view of the prevalent tendency of common-sense 
generalizations to neglect the differences of values and 
attitudes prevailing in various social groups a tendency 
well manifested in the foregoing example the chief danger 


of sociology in searching for laws is rather to overestimate 
than to underestimate the generality of the laws which it 
may discover. We must therefore remember that there is 
less risk in assuming that a certain law applies exclusively 
in the given social conditions than in supposing that it may 
be extended over all societies. 

The ideal of social theory, as of every other nomo- 
/\thetic science, is to interpret as many facts as possible by 
as few laws as possible, that is, not only to explain causally 
the life of particular societies at particular periods, but to 
subordinate these particular laws to general laws applicable 
to all societies at all times taking into account the historical 
evolution of mankind which continually brings new data 
and new facts and thus forces us to search for new laws in 
addition to those already discovered. But the fact that 
social theory as such cannot test its results by the laboratory 
method, but must rely entirely on the logical perfection of 
its abstract analysis and synthesis, makes the problem of 
control of the validity of its generalizations particularly 
important. The insufficient realization of the character 
of this control has been the chief reason why so many 
sociological works bear a character of compositions, inter- 
mediary between philosophy and science and fulfilling the 
demands of neither. 

We have mentioned above the fact that social theory as 
nomothetic science must be clearly distinguished from any 
philosophy of social life which attempts to determine the 
essence of social reality or to outline the unique process of 
social evolution. This distinction becomes particularly 
' marked when we reach the problem of testing the generaliza- 
1 tions. Every scientific law bears upon the empirical facts 
themselves in their whole variety, not upon their under- 
lying common essence, and hence every new discovery 
in the domain which it embraces affects it directlv and 


immediately, either by corroborating it or by invalidating 
it. And, as scientific laws concern facts which repeat 
themselves, they automatically apply to the future as well 
as to the past, and new happenings in the domain embraced 
by the law must be taken into consideration as either 
justifying or contradicting the generalization based upon 
past happenings, or demanding that this generalization be 
supplemented by a new one. 

And thus the essential criterion of social science as 
against social philosophy is the direct dependence of its! 
generalizations on new discoveries and new happenings. | 
If a social generalization is not permanently qualified by 
the assumption that at any moment a single new experience 
may contradict it, forcing us either to reject it or to supple- 
ment it by other generalizations, it is not scientific and has 
no place in social theory, unless as a general principle helping 
to systematize the properly scientific generalizations. The 
physicist, the chemist, and the biologist have learned by the 
use of experiment that their generalizations are scientifically 
fruitful only if they are subject to the check of a possible 
experimental failure, and thus the use of experiment has 
helped them to pass from the mediaeval philosophic, naturalis 
to the modern natural science. The social theorician must 
follow their example an4 methodically search only for such 
generalizations as are subject to the check of a possible 
contradiction by new facts and should leave the empirically 
unapproachable essences and meanings where they properly 
belong, and where they have a real though different impor- 
tance and validity in philosophy. 

The ultimate test of social theory, as we have emphasized 
throughout the present note, will be ; cs application in 
practice, and thus its generalizations will be also subject in 
the last resort to the check of a possible failure. However, 
practical application is not experimentation. The results 


of the physical sciences are also ultimately tested by their 
application in industry, but this does not alter the fact that 
the test is made on the basis of laboratory experiments. 
The difference between experiment and application is 
twofold: (i)yfhe problems themselves usually differ in 
complexity./ The experiment by which we test a scientific 
law is artificially simplified in view of the special theoretic 
problem, whereas in applying scientific results to attain a 
practical purpose we have a much more complex situation 
to deal with, necessitating the use of several scientific laws 
and the calculation of their interference. This is a question 
with which we shall deal presently. (2)^0. laboratory 
experiments the question of the immediate'practical value 
of success or failure is essentially excluded for the sake of 
their theoretical value. Whether the chemist in trying a 
new combination will spoil his materials and have to buy 
a new supply, whether the new combination will be worth 
more or less money than the elements used, are from the 
standpoint of science completely irrelevant questions; and 
even a failure if it puts the scientist on the trail of a new law 
will be more valuable than a success if it merely corroborates 
once more an old and well-established law. But in applying 
scientific results in practice we have essentially the practical 
value of success or failure in view* It is unthinkable that 
a chemist asked to direct the production of a new kind of 
soap in a factory should test his theory by direct application 
and risk the destruction of a hundred thousand dollars 
worth of material, instead of testing it previously on a small 
scale by laboratory experiments. Now in all so-called 
social experiments, on however small a scale, the question 
of practical value is involved, because the objects of these 
experiments are men; the social scientist cannot exclude 
the question of the bearing of his "experiments" on the 
future of those who are affected by them. He is therefore 


seldom or never justified in risking a failure for the sake of 
testing his theory. Of course he does and can take risks, 
not as a scientist, but as a practical man; that is, he is 
justified in taking the risk of bringing some harm if there 
are rriore chances of benefit than of harm to those on whom 
he operates. His risk is then the practical risk involved in 
every application of an idea, not the special theoretic risk 
involved in the mere testing of the idea. And, in order to 
diminish this practical risk, he must try to make his theory 
as certain and applicable as possible before trying to apply 
it in fact, and he can secure this result and hand over to 
the social practitioner generalizations at least approximately 
as applicable as those of physical science, only if he uses the 
check of contradiction by new experience. This means 
that besides using only such generalizations as can be 
contradicted by new experiences he must not wait till new 
experiences impose themselves on him by accident, but 
must search for them, must institute a systematic method 
of observation. And, while it is only natural that a scientist 
in order to form a hypothesis and to give it some amount of 
probability has to search first of all for such experiences -as 
may corroborate it, his hypothesis cannot be considered 
fully tested until he has made subsequently a systematic 
search for such experiences as may contradict it, and proved 
those contradictions to be only seeming, explicable by the 
interference of definite factors. 

Assuming now that social theory fulfils its task satis- 
factorily and goes on discovering new laws which can be 
applied to regulate social becoming, what will be the effect 
of this on social practice ? First of all, tlie limitations with 
which social practice has struggled up to the present will 
be gradually removed. Since it is theoretically possible to 
find what social influences should be applied to certain 


already existing attitudes in order to produce certain new 
attitudes, and what attitudes should be developed with 
regard to certain already existing social values in order to 
make the individual or the group produce certain new social 
values, there is not a single phenomenon within the whole 
sphere of human life that conscious control cannot reach 
sooner or later. There are no objective obstacles in the 
nature of the social world or in the nature of the human mind 
which would essentially prevent social practice from attain- 
ing gradually the same degree of efficiency as that of indus- 
trial practice. The only obstacles are of a subjective kind. 

There is, first, the traditional appreciation of social 
activity as meritorious in itself, for the sake of its intentions 
alone. There must, indeed, be some results in order to 
make the good intentions count, but, since anything done is 
regarded as meritorious, the standards by which the results 
are appreciated are astonishingly low. Social practice 
must cease to be a matter of merit and be treated as a 
necessity. If the theorician is asked to be sure of his 
generalizations before trying to apply them hi practice, it 
is at least strange that persons of merely good will are 
permitted to try out on society indefinitely and irresponsibly 
their vague and perhaps sentimental ideas. 

The second obstacle to the development of a perfect 
social practice is the well-known unwillingness of the 
common-sense man to accept the control of scientific 
technique. Against this unwillingness there is only one 
weapon success. This is what the history of industrial 
technique shows. There is perhaps not a single case where 
the first application of science to any field of practice held 
by common sense and tradition did not provoke the opposi- 
tion of the practitioner. It is still within the memory of 
man that the old farmer with his common-sense methods 
laughed at the idea that the city chap could teach him any- 


thing about farming, and was more than skeptical about the 
application of the results of soil-analysis to the growing of 
crops. The fear of new things is still strong even among 
cultivated persons, and the social technician has to expect 
that he will meet at almost every step this old typical 
hostility of common sense to science. He can only accept 
it and interpret it as a demand to show the superiority of his 
methods by their results. 

But the most important difficulty which social practice 
has to overcome before reaching a level of efficiency com- 
parable to that of industrial practice lies in the difficulty of 
applying scientific generalizations. The laws of science are 
abstract, while the practical situations are concrete, and 
it requires a special intellectual activity to find what are 
the practical questions which a given law may help to solve, 
or what are the scientific laws which may be used to solve 
a given practical question. In the physical sphere this 
intellectual activity has been embodied in technology, and 
it is only since the technologist has intervened between the 
scientist and the practitioner that material practice has 
acquired definitely the character of a self-conscious and 
planfully developing technique and ceased to be dependent 
on irrational and often unreasonable traditional rules. 
And if material practice needsa technology in spite of the 
fact that the generalizations which physical science hands 
over to it have been already experimentally tested, this need 
is much more urgent in social practice where the application 
of scientific generalizations is their first and only experi- 
mental test. 

We cannot enter here into detailed indications of what 
social technology should be, but we must take into account 
the chief point of its method the general form which every 
concrete problem of social technique assumes. Whatever 
may be the aim of social practice modification of individual 


attitudes or of social institutions in trying to attain this 
aim we never find the elements which we want to use or to 
modify isolated and passively waiting for our activity, but 
always embodied in active practical situations, which have 
been formed independently of us and with which our 
activity has to comply. 

The situation is the set of values and attitudes with which 
the individual or the group has to deal in a process of 
activity and with regard to which this activity is planned and 
its results appreciated. Every concrete activity is the 
solution of a situation. The situation involves three kinds 
of data: (i) The objective conditions under which the 
individual or society has to act, that is, the totality of 
values economic, social, religious, intellectual, etc. 
which at the given moment affect directly or indirectly the 
conscious status of the individual or the group. (2) The 
pre-existing attitudes of the individual or the group which 
at the given moment have an actual influence upon his 
behavior. (3) The definition of the situation, that is, the 
more or less clear conception of the conditions and conscious- 
ness of the attitudes. /And the definition of the situation 
is a necessary preliminary to any act of the will, for in given 
conditions and with a given set of attitudes an indefinite 
plurality of actions is possible, and one definite action can 
appear only if these conditions are selected, interpreted, and 
combined hi a determined way and if a certain systematiza- 
tion of these attitudes is reached, so that one of them 
becomes predominant and subordinates the others. It 
happens, indeed, that a certain value imposes itself imme- 
diately and unreflectively and leads at once to action, or 
that an attitude as soon as it appears excludes the others 
and expresses itself unhesitatingly in an active process. 
In these cases, whose most radical examples are found in 
reflex and instinctive actions, the definition is already given 


to the individual by external conditions or by his own 
tendencies. But usually there is a process of reflection, 
after which either a ready social definition is applied or a 
new personal definition worked out. 

Let us take a typical example out of the fifth volume of the 
present work, concerning the family life of the immigrants 
in America. A husband, learning of his wife's infidelity, 
deserts her. The objective conditions were: (i) the social 
institution of marriage with all the rules involved; (2) 
the wife, the other man, the children, the neighbors, and in 
general all the individuals constituting the habitual environ- 
ment of the husband and, in a sense, given to him as values; 
(3) certain economic conditions; (4) the fact of the wife's 
infidelity. Toward all these values the husband had certain 
attitudes, some of them traditional, others recently devel- 
oped. Now, perhaps under the influence of the discovery 
of his wife's infidelity, perhaps after having developed some 
new attitude toward the sexual or economic side of marriage, 
perhaps simply influenced by the advice of a friend in the 
form of a rudimentary scheme of the situation helping him 
to "see the point," he defines the situation for himself. He 
takes certain conditions into account, ignores or neglects 
others, or gives them a certain interpretation in view of some 
chief value, which may be his wife's infidelity, or the eco- 
nomic burdens of family life of which this infidelity gives him 
the pretext to rid himself, or perhaps some other woman, or 
the half-ironical pity of his neighbors, etc. And in this 
definition some one attitude sexual jealousy, or desire for 
economic freedom, or love for the other woman, or offended 
desire for recognition or a complex of these attitudes, or a 
new attitude (hate, disgust) subordinates to itself the 
others and manifests itself chiefly in the subsequent 
action, which is evidently a solution of the situation, and 
fully determined both in its social and in its individual 


components by the whole set of values, attitudes, and 
reflective schemes which the situation included. When a 
situation is solved, the result of the activity becomes an 
element of a new situation, and this is most clearly evi- 
denced in cases where the activity brings a change of a 
social institution whose unsatisfactory functioning was the 
chief element of the first situation. 

Now, while the task of science is to analyze by a com- 
parative study the whole process of activity into elementary 
facts, and it must therefore ignore the variety of concrete 
situations in order to be able to find laws of causal depend- 
ence of abstractly isolated attitudes or values on other 
attitudes and values, the task of technique is tf^proyide hj^ 
means of a rational control of concrete situations. The 
situation can evidently be controlled either by a change of 
conditions or by a change of attitudes^ or by both, and in 
this respect the role of technique as application of science 
is easily characterized. By comparing situations of a 
certain type, the social technician must find what are the 
predominant values or the predominant attitudes which 
determine the situation more than others, and then the 
question is to modify these values or these attitudes in the 
desired way by using the knowledge of social causation 
given by social theory. Thus, we may find that some of the 
situations among the Polish immigrants in America result- 
ing in the husband's desertion are chiefly determined by the 
wife's infidelity, others by her quarrelsomeness, others by 
bad economic conditions, still others by the husband's 
desire for freedom, etc. And, if in a given case we know 
what influences to apply in order to modify these dominating 
factors, we can modify the situation accordingly, and ideally 
we can provoke in the individual a behavior in conformity 
with any given scheme of attitudes and values. 

To be sure, it may happen that, in spite of an adequate 
scientific knowledge of the social laws permitting the 


modification of those factors which we want to change, our 
efforts will fail to influence the situation or will produce a 
situation more undesirable than the one we wished to 
avoid. The fault is then with our technical knowledge. 
That is, either we have failed in determining the relative 
, kffl^tance of the various factors, or we have failed to 
* foresee the influence of other causes which, interfering with 
our activity, produce a quite unexpected and undesired 
effect. And since it is impossible to expect from every 
practitioner a complete scientific training and still more 
impossible to have him work out a scientifically justified and 
detailed plan of action for every concrete case in particular, 
the special task of the social technician is to prepare, with 
the help of both science and practical observation, thorough 
schemes and plans of action for all the various types of 
situations which may be found in a given line of social 
activity, and leave to the practitioner the subordination 
of the given concrete situation to its proper type. This is 
actually the role which all the organizers of social institu- 
tions have played, but the technique itself must become 
more conscious and methodically perfect, and every field of 
social activity should have its professional technicians. 
The evolution of social life makes necessary continual 
modifications and developments of social technique, and 
we can hope that the evolution of social theory will con- 
tinually put new and useful scientific generalizations within 
the reach of the social technician; the latter must therefore 
remain in permanent touch with both social life and social 
theory, and this requires a more far-going specialization 
than we actually find. 

But, however efficient thft type of social technique may 
become, its application will always have certain limits 
beyond which a different type of technique will be more 
useful. Indeed, the form of social control outlined above 
presupposes that the individual or the group is treated 


as a passive object of our activity and that we change the 
situations for him, from case to case, in accordance with our 
plans and intentions. But the application of this method 
becomes more and more difficult as the situations grow 
more complex, more new and unexpected from case to case, 
and more influenced by the individual's own reflection. 
And, indeed, from both the moral and the hedonistic 
standpoints and also from the standpoint of the level of 
efficiency of the individual and of the group, it is desirable 
to develop in the individuals the ability to control spontane- 
ously their own activities by conscious reflection. To use 
a biological comparison, the type of control where the 
practitioner prescribes for the individual a scheme of 
activity appropriate to every crisis as it arises corresponds 
to the tropic or reflex type of control in animal life, where 
the activity of the individual is controlled mechanically by 
stimulations from without, while the reflective and individ- 
ualistic control corresponds to the type of activity character- 
istic of the higher conscious organism, where the control is 
exercised from within by the selective mechanism of the 
nervous system. While, in the early tribal, communal, 
kinship, and religious groups, and to a large extent in the 
historic state, the society itse\f provided a rigoristic and 
particularistic set of definitions in the form of "customs" or 
"mores," the tendency to advance is associated with the 
liberty of the individual to make his own definitions. 

We have assumed throughout this argument that if 
an adequate technique is developed it is possible to produce 
any desirable attitudes and values, but this assumption is 
practically justified only if we find in the individual attitudes 
which cannot avoid response to the class of stimulations 
which society is able to apply to him. And apparently we 
do find this disposition. Every individual has a vast 
variety of wishes which can be satisfied only by his incorpora- 




tion in a society. Among his general patterns of wishes 
we may enumerate: (i) the desire for new experience, for 
fresh stimulations; (2) the desire for recognition, including, 
for example, sexual response and general social appreciation, 
and secured by devices ranging from the display of orna- 
ment to the demonstration of worth through scientific 
attainment; (3) the desire for mastery, or the "will to 
power," exemplified by ownership, domestic tyrai 
political despotism, based on the^ instinct of hjite/but 
capable of being sublimated to laudable ambition;^) the 
desire for security, based on the instinct of fear and exem- 
plified negatively by the wretchedness of the individual in 
perpetual solitude or under social taboo. Society is, 
indeed, an agent for the repression of many of the wishes 
in the individual; it demands that he shall be moral by 
repressing at least the wishes which are irreconcilable with 
the welfare of the group, but nevertheless it provides the 
only medium within which any of his schemes or wishes can 
be gratified. And it would be superfluous to point out by 
examples the degree to which society has in the past been 
able to impose its schemes of attitudes and values on the 
individual. Professor Sumner's volume, Folkways, is prac- 
tically a collection of such examples, and, far from dis- 
couraging us as they discourage Professor Su 
should be regarded as proofs of^ the ability of ti iyidual 
to conform to any definition, to accept anyM &P ro ~ 

vided it is an expression of the public will o^jJH Bne 

appreciation of even a limited group. To^feke a Jmgle 
example from the present, to be a bastai^Mfrthe mother 
of a bastard has been regarded heretof ojfl^ anything but 
desirable, but we have at this momenj^fcrts that one of 
the warring European nations is offiJ[Hp impregnating its 
un'rnj l^omen and girls and evd^frried women whose 
hu&ands ft at the front. VwiflP true (which we do 


not assume) we have a new definition and a new evaluation 
of motherhood arising from the struggle of this society 
against death, and we may anticipate a new attitude that 
the resulting children and their mothers will be the objects 
of extraordinary social appreciation. And even if we find 
that the attitudes are not so tractable as we have assumed, 
that it is not possible to provoke all the desirable ones, we 
shall still be in the same situation as, let us say, physics and 
mechanics: we shall have the problem of securing the 
highest degree of control possible in view of the nature of 
our materials. 

As to the present work, it evidently cannot in any sense 
pretend to establish social theory on a definitely scientific 
basis. It is clear from the preceding discussion that many 
workers and much time will be needed before we free our- 
selves from the traditional ways of thinking, develop a 
completely efficient and exact working method, and reach 
a system of scientifically correct generalizations. Our 
present very limited task is the preparation of a certain 
body of materials, even if we occasionally go beyond it and 
attempt to reach some generalizations. 

Our object-matter is one class of a modern society in the 
whole concrete complexity of its life. The selection of the 
Polish peasant society, motivated at first by somewhat 
incidoptaUUlteons, such as the intensity of the Polish 
immigration and the facility of getting materials concerning 
the PoMs^MB^sant, has proved during the investigation 
to be a fortun3Mk>ne. The Polish peasant finds himself now 
in a period of flMfcition from the old forms of social organ- 
ization that halBteen in force, with only insignificant 
changes, for man^lBkuries, to a modern form oflife. He 
has preserved enouJHfc the old attitudes to ^H |heir 
sociological reconstruBB| possible, and he ifB BK^ V 


advanced upon the new way to make a study of the develop- 
ment of modern attitudes particularly fruitful. He has 
been invited by the upper classes to collaborate in the 
construction of Polish national life, and hi certain lines! 
his development is due to the conscious educational efforts ' 
of his leaders the nobility, the clergy, the middle class. \ 
In this respect he has the value of an experiment in social 
technique; the successes, as well as the failures, of this 
educational activity of the upper classes are very significant 
for social work. These efforts of the upper classes them- 
selves have a particular sociological importance in view of 
the conditions in which Polish society has lived during the 
last century. As a society without a state, divided among 
three states and constantly hampered in all its efforts to 
preserve and develop a distinct and unique cultural life, 
it faced a dilemma either to disappear or to create such 
substitutes for a state organization as would enable it to 
resist the destructive action of the oppressing states; or, 
more generally, to exist without the framework of a state. 
These substitutes were created, and they are interesting in 
two respects. Fiist, they show, in an exceptionally inten- 
sified and to a large extent isolated form, the action of 
certain factors of social unity which exist in every society 
but in normal conditions are subordinated to the state 
organization and seldom sufficiently accounted for in 
sociological reflection. Secondly, the lack of permanence 
of every social institution and the insecurity of every social 
value in general, resulting from the destructive tendencies 
of the dominating foreign states, bring with them a necessity 
of developing and keeping constantly alive*all the activities 
needed to reconstruct again and again every value that had 
been destroyed. The whole mechanism of social creation is 
theref<j|here particularly transparent and easy to under- 
in general the role of fruman attitudes in social 


life becomes much more evident than in a society not living 
under the same strain, but able to rely to a large extent upon 
the inherited formal organization for the preservation of its 
culture and unity. 

We use in this work the inductive method in a form 
which gives the least possible place for any arbitrary state- 
ments. The basis of the work is concrete materials, and 
only in the selection of these materials some necessary 
discrimination has been used. But even here we have tried 
to proceed in the most cautious way possible. The private 
letters constituting the first two volumes have needed 
relatively little selection, particularly as they are arranged 
in family series. Our task has been limited to the exclusion 
of such letters from among the whole collection as contained 
nothing but a repetition of situations and attitudes more 
completely represented in the materials which we publish 
here. In later volumes the selection can be more severe, as 
far as the conclusions of the preceding volumes can be used 
for guidance. 

The analysis of the attitudes and characters given in 
notes to particular letters and in introductions to particular 
series contains nothing not essentially contained in the 
materials themselves; its task is only to isolate single 
attitudes, to show their analogies and dependences, and to 
interpret them in relation to the social background upon 
which they appear. Our acquaintance with the Polish 
society simply helps us in noting data and relations which 
would perhaps not be noticed so easily by one not imme- 
diately acquainted with the life of the group. 

Finally, the synthesis constituting the introductions to 
particular volumes is also based upon the materials, with 
a few exceptions where it was thought necessary to draw 
some data from Polish ethnological publications or, |^stem- 
atic studies. The sourc* are always quoted. * 


The general character of the work is mainly that of a 
systematization and classification of attitudes and values S\ 
prevailing in a concrete group. Every attitude and every 
value, as we have said above, can be really understood only 
in connection with the whole social life of which it is an 
element, and therefore this method is the only one that 
gives us a full and systematic acquaintance with all the 
complexity of social life. But it is evident that this mono- 
graph must be followed by many others if we want our 
acquaintance with social reality to be complete. Other 
Slavic groups, particularly the Russians; the French and 
the Germans, as representing different types of more 
efficient societies; the Americans, as the most conspicuous 


experiment in individualism; the Jews, as representing 
particular social adaptations under peculiar social pressures; 
the Oriental, with his widely divergent attitudes and values; 
the Negro, with his lower cultural level and unique social 
position these and other social groups should be included 
in a series of monographs, which in its totality will give for 
the first time a wide and secure basis for any sociological 
generalizations whatever. Naturally the value of every 
monograph will increase with the development of the work, 
for not only will the method continually improve, but every 
social group will help to understand every other. 

In selecting the monographic method for the present 
work and in urging the desirability of the further preparation 
of large bodies of materials representing the total life of 
different social groups, we do not ignore the other method of 
approaching a scientific social theory and practice the 
study of special problems, of isolated aspects of social life. 
And we are not obliged even to wait until all the societies 
have been studied monographically, in their whole concrete 
reality, before beginning the comparative study of particular 
problems. Indeed, the study of a single society, as we have 


undertaken it here, is often enough to show what role is 
played by a particular class of phenomena in the total life 
of a group and to give us in this way sufficient indications 
for the isolation of this class from its social context without 
omitting any important interaction that may exist between 
phenomena of this class and others, and we can then use 
these indications in taking the corresponding kinds of 
phenomena in other societies as objects of comparative 

By way of examples, we point out here certain problems 
suggested to us by the study of the Polish peasants for 
which this study affords a good starting-point i 1 

1. The problem of individualization. How far is individ- 
ualization compatible with social cohesion ? What are the 
forms of individualization that can be considered socially 
useful or socially harmful? What are the forms of social 
organization that allow for the greatest amount of 
individualism ? 

We have been led to the suppositions that, generally 
speaking, individualization is the intermediary stage between 
one form of social organization and another; that its social 
usefulness depends on its more or less constructive character 
that is, upon the question whether it does really lead to a 
new organization and whether the latter makes the social 
group more capable of resisting disintegrating influences; 
and that, finally, an organization based upon a conscious 
co-operation in view of a common ami is the most compatible 
with individualism. The verification of these suppositions 
and their application to concrete problems of such a society 
as the American would constitute a grateful work. 

2 . The problem of efficiency. Relation between individual 
and social efficiency. Dependence of efficiency upon various 

1 Points 2 and 8 following are more directly connected with materials on the 
middle and upper classes of Polish society which do not appear in the present work. 


individual attitudes and upon various forms of social 

The Polish society shows in most lines of activity a 
particularly large range of variation of individual efficiency 
with a relatively low scale of social efficiency. We have 
come to the conclusion that both phenomena are due to the 
lack of a sufficiently persistent and detailed frame of social 
organization, resulting from the loss of state-independence. 
Under these conditions individual efficiency depends upon 
individual attitudes much more than upon social conditions. 
An individual may be very efficient because there is little 
to hinder his activity in any line he selects, but he may also 
be very inefficient because there is little to push him or to 
help him. The total social result of individual activities 
under these conditions is relatively small, because social 
efficiency depends, not only on the average efficiency of the 
individuals that constitute the group, but also on the more 
or less perfect organization of individual efforts. Here, 
again, the application of these conclusions to other societies 
can open the way to important discoveries in this particular 
sphere by showing what is the way of conciliating the 
highest individual with the highest social efficiency. 

3. The problem of abnormality crime, vagabondage, pros- 
titution, alcoholism, etc. How far is abnormality the 
unavoidable manifestation of inborn tendencies of the 
individual, and how far is it due to social conditions ? 

The priests in Poland have a theory with regard to 
their peasant parishioners that there are no incorrigible 
individuals, provided that the influence exercised upon 
them is skilful and steady and draws into play all of the 
social factors familial solidarity, social opinion of the 
community, religion and magic, economic and intellectual 
motives, etc. And in his recent book on The Individual 
Delinquent, Dr. William Healy touches the problem on the 


same side in the following remark: "Frequently one 
wonders what might have been accomplished with this or 
that individual if he had received a more adequate discipline 
during his childhood." By our investigation of abnormal 
attitudes in connection with normal attitudes instead of 
treating them isolately, and by the recognition that the 
individual can be fully understood and controlled only if 
all the influences of his environment are properly taken into 
account, we could hardly avoid the suggestion that abnor- 
mality is mainly, if not exclusively, a matter of deficient 
social organization. There is hardly any human attitude 
which, if properly controlled and directed, could not be 
used in a socially productive way. Of course there must 
always remain a quantitative difference of efficiency between 
individuals, often a very far-going one, but we can see no 
reason for a permanent qualitative difference between 
socially normal and antisocial actions. And from this 
standpoint the question of the antisocial individual assumes 
no longer the form of the right of society to protection, but 
that of the right of the antisocial individual to be made 

4. The occupational problem. The modern division and 
organization of labor brings an enormous and continually 
growing quantitative prevalence of occupations which are 
almost completely devoid of stimulation and therefore 
present little interest for the workman. This fact neces- 
sarily affects human happiness profoundly, and, if only for 
this reason, the restoration of stimulation to labor is among \ 
the most important problems confronting society. The j 
present industrial organization tends also to develop a type 
of human being as abnormal in its way as the opposite type 
of individual who gets the full amount of occupational 
stimulation by taking a line of interest destructive of social 
order the criminal or vagabond. If the latter type of 


abnormality is immediately dangerous for the present state 
of society, the former is more menacing for the future, as 
leading to a gradual but certain degeneration of the human 
type whether we regard this degeneration as congenital 
or acquired. 

The analysis of this problem discloses very profound and 
general causes of the evil, but also the way of an eventual 
remedy. It is a fact too well known to be emphasized that 
modern organization of labor is based on an almost absolute 
prevalence of economic interests more exactly, on the 
tendency to produce or acquire the highest possible amount 
of economic values either because these interests are 
actually so universal and predominant or because they 
express themselves in social organization more easily than 
others a point to be investigated. The moralist complains 
of the materialization of men and expects a change of the 
social organization to be brought about by moral or religious 
preaching; the economic determinist considers the whole 
social organization as conditioned fundamentally and 
necessarily by economic factors and expects an improve- 
ment exclusively from a possible historically necessary 
modification of the economic organization itself. From the 
sociological viewpoint the problem looks much more serious 
and objective than the moralist conceives it, but much less 
limited and determined than it appears to the economic 
determinist. The economic interests are only one class of 
human attitudes among others, and every attitude can be 
modified by an adequate social technique. The interest 
in the nature of work is frequently as strong as, or stronger 
than, the interest in the economic results of the work, and 
often finds an objective expression in spite of the fact that 
actual social organization has little place for it. The 
protests, in fact, represented by William Morris mean that 
a certain class of work has visibly passed from the stage 


where it was stimulating to a stage where it is not that 
the handicrafts formerly expressed an interest in the work 
itself rather than in the economic returns from the work. 
Since every attitude tends to influence social institutions, 
we may expect that, with the help of social technique, an 
organization and a division of labor based on occupational 
interests may gradually replace the present organization 
based on demands of economic productivity. In other 
words, with the appropriate change of attitudes and values 
all work may become artistic work. 

5. The relation of the sexes. Among the many problems 
falling under this head two seem to us of fundamental 
importance, the first mainly socio-psychological, the second 
mainly sociological: (i) In the relation between the sexes 
how can a maximum of reciprocal response be obtained 
with the minimum of interference with personal interests ? 
(2) How is the general social efficiency of a group affected by 
the various systems of relations between man and woman ? 

We do not advance at this point any definite theories. 
A number of interesting concrete points will appear in the 
later volumes of our materials. But a few suggestions of a 
general character arise in connection with the study of a 
concrete society. In matters of reciprocal response we find 
among the Polish peasants the sexes equally dependent on 
each other, though their demands are of a rather limited and 
unromantic character, while at the same tune this response 
is secured at the cost of a complete subordination of their 
personalities to a common sphere of group-interests. When 
the development of personal interests begins, this original 
harmony is disturbed, and the disharmony is particularly 
marked among the immigrants hi America, where it often 
leads to a complete and radical disorganization of family life. 
There does not seem to be as yet any real solution in view. 
In this respect the situation of the Polish peasants may throw 


an interesting light upon the general situation of the culti- 
vated classes of modern society. The difference between 
these two situations lies in the fact that among the peasants 
both man and woman begin almost simultaneously to 
develop personal claims, whereas in the cultivated classes 
the personal claims of the man have been developed and in a 
large measure satisfied long ago, and the present problem 
is almost exclusively limited to the woman. The situations 
are analogous, however, in so far as the difficulty of solu- 
tion is concerned. 

With regard to social efficiency, our Polish materials 
tend to show that, under conditions in which the activities 
of the woman can attain an objective importance more or 
less equal to those of the man, the greatest social efficiency 
is attained by a systematic collaboration of man and woman 
in external fields rather than by a division of tasks which 
limits the woman to "home and children." The line along 
which the peasant class of Polish society is particularly 
efficient is economic development and co-operation; and 
precisely in this line the collaboration of women has been 
particularly wide and successful. As far as a division of 
labor based upon differences of the sexes is concerned, there 
seems to be at least one point at which a certain differentia- 
tion of tasks would be at present in accordance with the 
demands of social efficiency. The woman shows a particular 
aptitude of mediation between the formalism, uniformity, 
and permanence of social organization and the concrete, 
various, and changing individualities. And, whether this 
ability of the woman is congenital or produced by cultural 
conditions, it could certainly be made socially very useful, 
for it is precisely the ability required to diminish the 
innumerable and continually growing frictions resulting 
from the misadaptations of individual attitudes to social 
organization, and to avoid the incalculable waste of human 


energy which contrasts so deplorably in our modern society 
with our increasingly efficient use of natural energies. 

6. The problem of social happiness. With regard to this 
problem we can hardly make any positive suggestions. It 
is certain that both the relation of the sexes and the economic 
situation are among the fundamental conditions of human 
happiness, in the sense of making it and of spoiling it. 
But the striking point is that, aside from abstract philo- 
sophical discussion and some popular psychological analysis, 
the problem of happiness has never been seriously studied 
since the epoch of Greek hedonism, and of course the con- 
clusions reached by the Greeks, even if they were more 
scientific than they really are, could applied to 
the present tune, with its completely changed social con- 
ditions. Has this problem been so much neglected because 
of its difficulty or because, under the influence of certain i 
tendencies immanent in Christianity, happiness is still *^ 
half -instinctively regarded as more or less sinful, and pain 
as meritorious ? However that may be, the fact is that no 
things of real significance have been said up to the present 
about happiness, particularly if we compare them with the 
enormous material that has been collected and the innu- 
merable important ideas that have been expressed con- 
cerning unhappiness. Moreover, we believe that the prob- 
lem merits a very particular consideration, both from the 
theoretical and from the practical point of view, and that 
the sociological method outlined above gives the most 
reliable way of studying it. 

7. The problem of the fight of races (nationalities) and 
cultures. Probably in this respect no study of any other 
society can give so interesting sociological indications as the 
study of the Poles. Surrounded by peoples of various 
degrees of cultural development Germans, Austrians, 
Bohemians, Ruthenians, Russians, Lithuanians having 


on her own territory the highest percentage of the most 
unassimilable of races, the Jews, Poland is fighting at every 
moment for the preservation of her racial and cultural 
status. Moreover, the fight assumes the most various 
forms : self-defense against oppressive measures promulgated 
by Russia and Germany in the interest of their respective 
races and cultures; self-defense against the peaceful intru- 
sion of the Austrian culture in Galicia; the problem of the 
assimilation of foreign colonists German or Russian; the 
political fight against the Ruthenians in Eastern Galicia; 
peaceful propaganda and efforts to maintain the supremacy 
of Polish culture on the vast territory between the Baltic 
and the Black seas (populated mainly by Lithuanians, 
White Ruthenians, and Ukrainians), where the Poles 
constitute the cultivated minority of estate-owners and 
intellectual bourgeoisie; various methods of dealing with 
the Jews passive toleration, efforts to assimilate them 
nationally (not religiously), social and economic boycott. 
All these ways of fighting develop the greatest possible 
variety of attitudes. 

And the problem itself assumes a particular actual 
importance if we remember that the present war is a fight 
of races and cultures, which has assumed the form of war 
because races and cultures have expressed themselves in the 
modern state-organization. The fight of races and cultures 
is the predominant fact of modern historical life, and it 
must assume the form of war when it uses the present form 
of state-organization as its means. To stop wars one must 
either stop the fight of races and cultures by the introduction 
of new schemes of attitudes and values or substitute for the 
isolated national state as instrument of cultural expansion 
some other type of organization. 

8. Closely connected with the foregoing is the problem 
of an ideal organization of culture. This is the widest and 


oldest sociological problem, lying on the border between 
theory and practice. Is there one perfect form of organiza- 
tion that would unify the widest individualism and the 
strongest social cohesion, that would exclude any abnormal- 
ity by making use of all human tendencies, that would 
harmonize the highest efficiency with the greatest happiness ? 
And, if one and only one such organization is possible, will 
it come automatically, as a result of the fight between 
cultures and as an expression of the law of the survival -of 
the fittest, so that finally "the world's history will prove the 
world's tribunal"? Or must such an organization be 
brought about by a conscious and rational social technique 
modifying the historical conditions and subordinating all 
the cultural differences' to one perfect system? Or is 
there, on the contrary, no such unique ideal possible? 
Perhaps there are many forms of a perfect organization of 
society, and, the differentiation of national cultures being 
impossible to overcome, every nation should simply try to 
bring its own system to the greatest possible perfection, 
profiting by the experiences of others, but not imitating 
them. In this case the fight of races and cultures could be 
stopped, not by the destruction of historical differences, but 
by the recognition of their value for the world and by a 
growing reciprocal acquaintance and estimation. What- 
ever may be the ultimate solution of this problem, it is 
evident that the systematic sociological study of various 
cultures, as outlined in this note and exemplified in its 
beginnings in the main body of the work, is .the-eniy way 
to solve it. *~ <MU~V^ k 



The Polish peasant family, in the primary and larger 
sense of the word, is a social group including all the blood- 
and law-relatives up to a certain variable limit usually 
the fourth degree. The family in the narrower sense, 
including only the married pair with their children, may be 
termed the "marriage-group." These two conceptions, 
family-group and marriage-group, are indispensable to an 
understanding of the familial life. 

The family cannot be represented by a genealogical tree 
because it includes law-relationship and because it is a 
strictly social, concrete, living group not a religious, 
mythical, heraldic, or economic formation. The cult of 
ancestors is completely lacking; the religious attention to 
the dead is practically the same whoever the dead family 
member whether father, brother, husband, or son. We 
find, indeed, certain legends connected with family names, 
especially if many persons of the same name live in one 
locality, but these have little influence on the family life. 
Heraldic considerations have some place among the peasant 
nobility and in certain villages where the peasants were 
granted various privileges in earlier times, but the social 
connection based upon these considerations is not only 
looser than the real familial connection, but of a different 
type. We shall speak again of this type of organization in 
connection with class-distinctions and the class-problem. 
Finally, there seems to be a certain economic basis of familial -' 
continuity in the idea of ancestral land; but we shall see 
that the importance of this idea is derived partly from the 
familial organization itself, partly from communal life. 



In short, the idea of common origin does not determine 
the unity of the familial group, but the concrete unity of 
the group does determine how far the common origin will be 
traced. Common descent determines, indeed, the unity of 
the group, but only by virtue of associational ties established 
within each new generation. And if we find examples in 
which common origin is invoked as a reason for keeping or 
establishing a connection, it is a sign that the primitive unity 
is in decay, while the sentiments corresponding with this 
unity still persist in certain individuals who attempt to 
reconstruct consciously the former state of things and use 
the idea of community of origin as an argument, just as it 
has been used as an explanation in the theories of family and 
for the same reason because it is the simplest rational 
scheme of the familial relation. But, as we shall see, it is too 
simple an explanation. 

The adequate scheme would represent the family as a 
plurality of nuclei, each of them constituted by a marriage- 
group and relations radiating from each of them toward other 
marriage-groups and single members, up, down, and on both 
sides, and toward older, younger, and collateral generations 
of both husband and wife. But it must be kept in mind that 
these nuclei are neither equally consistent within them- 
selves nor equally important with regard to their connection 
with others at any given moment, and that they are not 
static, but evolving (in a normal family) toward greater 
consistency and greater importance. The nucleus only 
begins to constitute itself at the moment of marriage, for 
then the relations between husband and wife are less close 
than those uniting each of them to the corresponding nuclei 
of which they were members; the nucleus has the greatest 
relative consistency and importance when it is the oldest 
living married couple with the greatest number of children 
and grandchildren. Each nucleus is a center around which 


a circle may be drawn including all the relatives on both 
sides up to, let us say, the fourth degree. Abstractly speak- 
ing, any marriage-group may be thus selected as center of 
the family, and the composition of the latter will of course 
vary accordingly; we shall have as many partly interfering, 
partly different families as there are marriage-groups. But 
actually among all these family-groups some are socially 
more real than others, as is shown by the fact that they 
behave more consistently as units with regard to the rest 
of the community. For example, from the standpoint of 
a newly married couple the relatives of the wife in the fourth 
degree may belong to the family, but they do not belong to it 
from the standpoint of the husband's parents, and it is 
the latter standpoint which is socially more important and 
the one assumed by the community, so long at least as the 
parents are alive. After their death, and when the married 
couple grows old, its standpoint becomes dominant and is 
adopted by the community. But at the same time the 
husband usually has brothers and sisters who, when married, 
constitute also secondary centers, and these centers become 
also primary in the course of time, and thus the family 
slowly divides and re-forms itself. 

The family is thus a very complex group, with limits 
only approximately determined and with very various kinds 
and degrees of relationship between its members. But 
the fundamental familial connection is one and irredu- 
cible; it cannot be converted into any other type of group- 
relationship nor reduced to a personal relation between 
otherwise isolated individuals. It may be termed familial 
solidarity, and it manifests itself both in assistance rendered 
to, and in control exerted over, any member of the group 
by any other member representing the group as a whole. 
It is totally different from territorial, religious, economic, 
or national solidarity, though evidently these are additional 


bonds promoting familial solidarity, and we shall see 
presently that any dissolution of them certainly exerts a 
dissolving influence upon the family. And again, the 
familial solidarity and the degree of assistance and of 
control involved should not depend upon the personal 
character of the members, but only upon the kind 
and degree of their relationship; the familial relation 
between two members admits no gradation, as does love 
or friendship. 

In this light all the familial relations in their ideal form, 
that is, as they would be if there were no progressive dis- 
integration of the family, become perfectly plain. 

The relation of husband and wife is controlled by both 
the united families, and husband and wife are not individuals 
more or less closely connected according to tljeir personal 
sentiments, but group-members connected absolutely in a 
single way. Therefore the marriage norm is not love, but 
"respect," as the relation which can be controlled and 
reinforced by the family, and which corresponds also 
exactly to the situation of the other party as member of a 
group and representing the dignity of that group. The 
norm of respect from wife to husband includes obedience, 
fidelity, care for the husband's comfort and health; from 
husband to wife, good treatment, fidelity, not letting the 
wife do hired work if it is not indispensable. In general, 
neither husband nor wife ought to do anything which could 
- lower the social standing of the other, since this would lead 
to a lowering of the social standing of the other's family. 
Affection is not explicitly included in the norm of respect, 
but is desirable. As to sexual love, it is a purely personal 
matter, is not and ought not to be socialized in any form; 
the family purposely ignores it, and the slightest indecency 
or indiscreetness with regard to sexual relations in marriage 
is viewed with disgust and is morally condemned. 


The familial assistance to the young married people is - 
given in the form of the dowry, which they both receive. 
Though the parents usually give the dowry, a grandfather 
or grandmother, brother, or uncle may just as well endow 
the boy or the girl or help to do so. This shows the familial 
character of the institution, and this character is still more 
manifest if we recognize that the dowry is not in the full 
sense the property of the married couple. It remains a part 
of the general familial property to the extent that the 
married couple remains a part of the family. The fact that, 
not the future husband and wife, but their families, repre- 
sented by their parents and by the matchmakers, come to 
an understanding on this point is another proof of this 
relative community of property. The assistance must 
assume the form of dowry simply because the married 
couple, composed of members of two different families, 
must to some extent isolate itself from one or the other of 
these families; but the isolation is not an individualization, 
it is only an addition of some new familial ties to the old 
ones, a beginning of a new nucleus. 

The relation of parents to children is also determined 
by the familial organization. The parental authority is 
complex. It is, first, the right of control which they exercise 
as members of the group over other members, but naturally 
the control is unusually strong in this case because of the 
particularly intimate relationship. But it is more than this. 
The parents are privileged representatives of the group as a 
whole, backed by every other member in the exertion of their 
authority, but also responsible before the group for their 
actions. The power of this authority v is really great; a 
rebellious child finds nowhere any help, not even in the 
younger generation, for every member of the family will 
side with the child's parents if he considers them right, and 
everyone will feel the familial will behind him and will play 


the part of a representative of the group. On the other 
hand, the responsibility of the parents to the familial group 
is very clear in every case of undue severity or of too great 
leniency on their part. And in two cases the family always 
assumes active control when a stepchild is mistreated or 
when a mother is left alone with boys, whom she is assumed 
to be unable to educate suitably. When the children 
grow up the family controls the attitude of the parents in 
economic matters and in the problem of marriage. The 
parents are morally obliged to endow their children as well 
as they can, simply because they are not full and exclusive 
proprietors but rather managers of their inherited property. 
This property has been constituted mainly by the father's 
and mother's dowries, which are still parts of the respective 
familial properties, and the rest of the family retains a right 
of control. Even if the fortune has been earned individually 
by the father, the traditional familial form applies to it more 
or less. Finally, being a manager rather than a proprietor, 
the father naturally has to retire when his son (usually the 
oldest) becomes more able than he to manage the main bulk 
of the property the farm. The custom of retiring is 
therefore rooted in the familial organization, and the 
opinion of the familial group obliges the old people to retire 
even if they hesitate. In the matter of marriage the 
parents, while usually selecting their child's partner, must 
take into consideration, not only the child's will, but also 
the opinion of other members of the family. The con- 
sideration of the child's will results, not from a respect for 
the individual, but from the fact that the child is a member 
whose importance in the family will continually grow after 
his marriage. Regard for the opinion of other members of 
the family is clearly indispensable, since through marriage a 
new member will be brought into the family and through his 
agency a connection will be established with another family. 



On the other hand, the attitude of the children toward 
the parents is also to be explained only on the ground of a 
larger familial group of which they are all members. The 
child comes to exercise a control over the parents, not con- 
ditioned by any individual achievements on his part, but 
merely by the growth of his importance within the family- 
group. In this respect the boy's position is always more 
important than the girl's, because the boy will be the head 
of a future marriage-group and because he is the presumptive 
manager of a part of the familial fortune. Thence his 
greater independence, or rather his greater right to control 
his parents. In a boy's life there are four (in the girl's life 
usually only three) periods of gradually increasing familial 
importance: early childhood, before the beginning of man's 
work; after the beginning of man's work until marriage; 
after marriage until the parents' retirement; after the 
parents' retirement. In the first period the boy has no 
right of control at all; the control is exerted on his behalf by 
the family. In the second period he cannot dispose of the 
money which he earns (it is not a matter of property, but 
of management) and is obliged to give it to his father to 
manage, but he has the right to control his father in this 
management and to appeal, if necessary, to the rest of the 
family. In the third period he manages his part of the 
fortune under the familial control and has the right to 
control his father's management of the remainder; he is 
almost equal to his father. In the last period (which the 
woman does not attain) he takes the father's place as head 
manager. And the management of property is only the 
clearest manifestation of a general independence. Thus, 
in questions of marriage the choice is free at a later age, and 
becomes almost completely free in the second marriage. 
But evidently by freedom we mean only independence of the 
special control of the parents as representatives of the 


group, not freedom from a general control of the group or of 
any of its members. 

As the parents are obliged to assist the children in 
proportion to their right to exert authority, so the children's 
duty of assistance is proportional to their right of control. 
Helping in housework and turning over to the family money 
earned is not assistance, but the duty of keeping and increas- 
ing the familial fortune. Assistance may begin indeed at 
the second stage (the boy doing man's work), but then it is 
expressly stated that a given sum of money, for example, 
is destined to cover personal expenses of the parents, and 
in this case it is difficult to determine whether we have still 
the primitive familial organization or a certain individualiza- 
tion of relations. In short, at this stage simple familial 
communism in economic matters and familial assistance are 
not sufficiently differentiated. But the differentiation is 
complete in the third stage, after marriage. If the married 
son or daughter is in a better position than the parents, help 
is perfectly natural, and it is plainly help, not communism, to 
the degree that the division of property is real. In the last 
stage, when the parents have retired, assistance becomes the 
fundamental attitude; and it is now a consciously moral 
duty powerfully reinforced by the opinion of the familial 

In all the relations between parents and children the 
familial organization leaves no place for merely personal 
affection. Certainly this affection exists, but it cannot 
express itself in socially sanctioned acts. The behavior of 
the parents toward the children and the contrary must be 
determined exclusively by their situations as family mem- 
bers, not by individual merits or preferences. The only 
justification at least, on either side, of any behavior not de- 
termined by the familial situation is a preceding break of 
the familial principle by one of the members in question. 



Thus, the parents usually prefer one child to the others, but 
this preference should be based upon a familial superiority. 
The preferred child is usually the one who for some reason 
is to take the parental farm (the oldest son in Central 
Poland; the youngest son in the mountainous districts of 
the south; any son who stays at home while others 
emigrate), or it is the child who is most likely to raise by his 
personal qualities the social standing of the family. And, 
on the contrary, a voluntary isolation from the family life, 
any harm brought to the family-group, a break of familial 
solidarity, are sufficient reasons, and the only sufficient ones, 
for treating a child worse than others and even, in extreme 
cases, for disowning it. In the same way the children are . 
justified in neglecting the bonds of solidarity which unite 
them with their parents only if the latter sin against the 
familial spirit, for example, if a widower (or widow) con- 
tracts a new marriage in old age and in such a way that, 
instead of assimilating his wife to his own family, he becomes 
assimilated to hers. 

The relation between brothers and sisters assumes a 
different form after the death of the parents. As long as the 
parents are alive the solidarity between children is rather 
mediate; the connection between parents and children is 
much closer than the connection between brothers and 
sisters, because neither relation is merely personal, and the 
parents represent the familial idea. In a normal familial 
organization, therefore, in any struggle between parents and 
child other children side with the parents, particularly older 
children, who understand fully the familial solidarity, unless, 
of course, the parents have broken this solidarity first. 
But if the parents are dead, the relation between brothers v 
and sisters becomes much closer; indeed, it is the closest 
familial relation which then remains. Thus the nucleus, 
constituted by the marriage-group, does not dissolve after 


the death of the married couple; the group remains, and as a 
group it resists as far as possible any dissolving influences. 
It is true that the guardians take the place of the parents 
as representatives of the familial authority, but they remain 
outside the nucleus, while the parents were within it. This 
is one more proof that the familial organization is not 
patriarchal, or else the patriarchal organization would 
dissolve and assimilate this parentless group. And this 
phenomenon cannot be interpreted as a sign of solidarity of 
the young against the old, for among the brothers and sisters 
the older assume an attitude of authority, and in this case, 
as well as during the life of the parents, any member of the 
older generation has a right of control over all the members 
of the younger generation. 

These general principles of control and of assistance 
within the narrower marriage-group and within the larger 
family, and from any member to any member, are reinforced, 
not only by the opinion of the family itself, but also by the 
opinion of the community (village, commune, parish, and 
loose-acquaintance milieu) within which the family lives. 
The reality of the familial ties once admitted, every member 
of the family evidently feels responsible for, and is held 
responsible for, the behavior and welfare of every other 
member, because, in peasant thinking, judgments upon the 
group as a whole are constantly made on the basis of the 
behavior of members of the family, and vice versa. On this 
account also between any two relatives, wherever found, an 
immediate nearness is assumed which normally leads to 

In this connection it is noticeable that hi primitive 
peasant life all the attitudes of social pride are primarily 
familial and only secondarily individual. When a family 
has lived from time immemorial in the same locality, when 
all its members for three or four generations are known or 


remembered, every individual is classified first of all as 
belonging to the family, and appreciated according to the 
appreciation which the family enjoys, while on the other 
hand the social standing of the family is influenced by the 
social standing of its members, and no individual can rise 
or fall without drawing to some extent the group with him. 
And at the same time no individual can so rise or fall as to 
remove himself from the familial background upon which 
social opinion always puts him. In doing this social opinion 
presupposes the familial solidarity, but at the same time it 
helps to preserve and develop it. 

As to the personal relations based upon familial connec- 
tion, it can be said that the ideal of the familial organiza- 
tion would be a state of things in which all the members of 
the family were personal friends and had no friends outside 
of the family. This ideal is expressed even in the terminol- 
ogy of some localities, where the term "friend" is reserved 
for relatives. This does not mean that personal friendship 
or even acquaintance is necessary to the reality of the 
familial connection. On the contrary, when a personal 
relation is thought to be the condition of active solidarity, 
we have a sign of the disintegration of familial life. 

An interesting point in the familial organization is the 
attitude of the woman. Generally speaking, the woman / 
has the familial group-feelings much less developed than 
the man and tends unconsciously to substitute for them, 
wherever possible, personal feelings, adapted to the individ- 
uality of the family members. She wants her husband 
more exclusively for herself and is often jealous of his family; 
she has less consideration for the importance of the familial 
group as a whole and more sympathy with individual needs 
of its members; she often divides her love among her 
children without regard for their value to the family; she 
chooses her friends more under the influence of personal 


factors. But this is only a matter of degree; the familial 
ideal is nowhere perfectly realized, and on the other hand 
no woman is devoid of familial group-feelings. Neverthe- 
less, in the evolution of the family these traits of the woman 
certainly exert a disintegrating influence, both by helping 
to isolate smaller groups and by assisting family members 
in the process of individualization. 

The organization here sketched is the general traditional 
basis of familial life, but actually we find it hardly anywhere 
in its full force. The familial life as given in the present 
materials is undergoing a profound disintegration along 
certain lines and under the influence of various factors. The 
main tendencies of this disintegration are: isolation of the 
marriage-group, and personal individualization. Although 
these processes sometimes follow each other and sometimes 
interact, they may also go on independently, and it is 
therefore better to consider them separately. There are, 
however, some common factors which, by leading simply to a 
disintegration of the traditional organization, leave the new 
form of familial life undetermined, and these may be treated 
first of all. 

The traditional form of the Polish peasant family can 
evidently subsist only in an agricultural community, settled 
at least for four or five generations in the same locality and 
admitting no important changes of class, religion, nation- 
ality, or profession. As soon as these changes appear, a 
disintegration is imminent. The marriage-group or the 
individual enters into a community different from that in 
which the rest of the family lives, and sooner or later the 
old bonds must be weakened or broken. The last fifty years 
have brought many such social changes into the peasant 
life. Emigration into Polish cities, to America, and to 
Germany scatters the family. The same thing results from 



the progressive proletairization of the inhabitants of the 
country, which obliges many farmers' sons and daughters 
to go to service or to buy "colonies" outside of their own 
district. The industrial development of the country leads 
to changes of profession. And, finally, there is a very rapid 
evolution of the Polish class-organization, and, thanks to 
this, peasants may pass into the new middle or at least lower 
middle class within one generation, thus effecting an almost 
complete break with the rest of the family. Changes of 
religion or nationality are indeed very rare, but, whenever 
they appear, their result is most radical and immediate. 

In analyzing the effect of these changes we must take 
into consideration the problem of adaptation to the new 
conditions. Two points are here important : the facility of 
adaptation and the scale of adaptation. For example, the 
adaptation of a peasant moving to a Polish city as a work- 
man is relatively easy, but its scale is small, while by 
emigrating to America or by rising in the social hierarchy 
he confronts a more difficult problem of adaptation, but 
the possible scale is incomparably wider. 

The effect of these differences on family life is felt 
independently of the nature of the new forms of familial 
organization which the individual (or the marriage-group) 
may find in his new environment. Indeed, the adaptation 
seldom goes so far as to imitate the familial life of the new 
milieu, unless the individual marries within this milieu and 
is thus completely assimilated. The only familial organiza- 
tion imitated by the peasant who rises above his class is the 
agnatic organization of the Polish nobility. Except for 
these rare cases, the evolution of the family is due, not to 
the positive influence of any other forms of familial life, but 
merely to the isolation of marriage-groups and individuals 
and to the accompanying changes of attitude and personality 
in the presence of a new external world. 


If this process is difficult or unsuccessful, the isolated 
individual or marriage-group will have a strong tendency to 
return to the old milieu and will particularly appreciate the 
familial solidarity through which, in spite of its imperfec- 
tions, the struggle for existence is facilitated, though in a 
limited way. We say in a limited way, because familial 
solidarity is a help mainly for the weak, whom the family 
does not allow to fall below a certain minimal standard of 
life, while it becomes rather a burden for the strong. The 
result of an unsuccessful or difficult adaptation will therefore 
tend to be a conscious revival of familial feelings and even 
a certain idealization of familial relations. We find this 
attitude in many marriage-groups in South America and 
Siberia, among soldiers serving in the Russian army, and 
among a few unsuccessful workmen in America, in Western 
Europe, and even in Polish industrial centers. 

If the process of adaptation is easy but limited that 
is, if the scale of control which the individual can attain 
is narrow but easily attained (as is usually the case with 
workmen hi Polish cities) the result is more complicated. 
There is still the longing for the old conditions of life, but 
not so strong as to make the organization of life in the new 
conditions unbearable. The familial feelings still exist in 
their old strength, fqr the extra-familial social life does not 
give full satisfaction to the sociable tendencies of the indi- 
vidual, but the object of these familial feelings is reduced 
to the single marriage-group. When territorially isolated 
the marriage-group is also isolated from the traditional set 
of rules, valuations, and sentiments of the old community 
and family, and with the disappearance of these traditions 
the family becomes merely a natural organization based on 
personal connections between its members, and these con- 
nections are sufficient only to keep together a marriage- 
group, including perhaps occasionally a few near relatives 


the parents, brothers, or sisters of husband or wife. Under 
these circumstances, and with economic conditions sufficient 
to live but hardly to progress, we meet in towns and cities 
an exclusiveness and egotism hi the marriage-group never 
found in the country. In the Polish towns the bourgeois 
type of familial organization tends to prevail among the 
lower classes single, closed marriage-groups behaving 
toward the rest of society as indissoluble units, egotistic, 
often even mutually hostile. And, as we see from our 
materials, the constitution of such groups is favored and, 
helped by the women. The woman appears as clearly' 
hostile to any social relations of her husband in the new 
milieu, and thus tends to isolate the marriage-group from 
it; of the old familial relations she keeps only those based 
upon personal affection, and thus helps to eliminate the 
traditional element. Through her typical feeling of eco- 
nomic insecurity, resulting from her insufficient adaptation 
to the modern conditions of industrial life, she develops 
more than her husband the egotism of the marriage-group. 
The third form of adaptation an adaptation relatively 
easy and successful : gives birth to a particular kind of 
individualization, found among the bulk of young immi- 
grants of both sexes in America and among many season- 
immigrants in Germany. The success of this adaptation 
which should of course be measured by the standard of the 
immigrant, not of the country to which he comes consists 
mainly in economic development and the growth of social 
influence. In both America and Germany this is due, in 
the first place, to the higher wages, but in democratic 
America the Polish social life gives the immigrant also a 
feeling of importance which in Polish communal life is the 
privilege of a few influential farmers. There is indeed no 
such field for the development of self-consciousness hi 
Germany, but the emigrant returns every year with new 




experience and new money to his native village, and thereby 
his social role is naturally enlarged. Formerly the individual 
counted mainly as member of a family; now he counts by 
himself, and still more than formerly. The family ceases 
to be necessary at all. It is not needed for assistance, 
because the individual gets on alone. It is not needed for 
the satisfaction of sociable tendencies, because these tend- 
encies can be satisfied among friends and companions. 
A community of experience and a similarity of attitudes 
create a feeling of solidarity among the young generation 
as against the old generation, without regard to family 
connections. The social interests and the familial interests 
no longer coincide, but cross each other. Externally this 
stage is easily observable in Polish colonies in America and 
in Polish districts which have an old emigration. Young 
people keep constantly together, apart from the old, and 
"good company" becomes the mam attraction, inducing 
the isolated emigrant to join his group hi America or return 
to it at home, but at the same time drawing the boy or the 
girl from the home to the street. 

The familial feelings do not indeed disappear entirely; 
the change which the individual undergoes is not profound 
enough for this. But the character of their manifestation 
changes. There is no longer an attitude of dependence 
on the family-group, and with the disappearance of this 
attitude the obligatory character of familial solidarity 
disappears also ; but at the same time a new feeling of self- 
importance tends to manifest itself in an attitude of superior- 
ity with regard to other members of the group, and this 
superiority demands an active expression. The result is a 
curious, sometimes very far-going, sometimes whimsical, 
generosity which the individual shows toward single family 
members regardless of the validity of the claim which this 
member could put forward under the traditional familial 



organization. This generosity is usually completely dis- 
interested from the economic point of view; no return is 
expected. It is essentially an expression of personality, a 
satisfaction at once of personal affection and personal 
vanity. It is shown only toward persons whom ties of 
affection unite with the giver, sometimes toward friends who 
do not even belong to the family. Pity is a motive which 
strengthens it and sometimes is even sufficient in itself. 
Any allusion to obligation offends it. Often it is displayed 
in an unexpected way or at an unexpected moment, with the 
evident desire to provoke astonishment. It is the symptom 
of an expanding personality. 

On the other hand, the unequal rate at which the process 
of individualization and the modification of traditional 
attitudes takes place in different family members leads often 
to disintegration of both the familial and the personal life. 
This is seen particularly in the relations of parents and 
children as it appears in emigration. When the boy leaves 
his family in Poland and comes to America, he at first raises 
no questions about the nature of his duties to his parents 
and family at home. He plans to send home all the money 
possible; he lives in the cheapest way and works the longest 
hours. He writes: "Dear Parents: I send you 300 roubles, 
and I will always send you as much as I can earn." He does 
not even feel this behavior as moral; and it is not moral, hi 
the sense that it involves no reflection and no inhibition. 
It is unreflective social behavior. But if in the course of 
time he has established new and individualistic attitudes 
and desires, he writes: "Dear Parents: I will send money; 
only you ask too much." (See in this connection But- 
kowski series.) 

But the most complete break between parents and 
children one presenting itself every day hi our juvenile 
courts comes with the emigration of the family as a whole 


to America. The children brought with the family or 
added to it in America do not acquire the traditional attitude 
of familial solidarity, but rather the American individualis- 
tic ideals, while the parents remain unchanged, and there 
frequently results a complete and painful antagonism be- 
tween children and parents. This has various expressions, 
but perhaps the most definite one is economic the demand 
of the parents for all the earnings of the child, and eventually 
as complete an avoidance as possible of the parents by the 
child. The mutual hate, the hardness, unreasonableness, 
and brutality of the parents, the contempt and ridicule of 
the child ridicule of the speech and old-country habits 
and views of the parents become almost incredible. The 
parents, for example, resort to the juvenile court, not as a 
means of reform, but as an instrument of vengeance; they 
will swear away the character of their girl, call her a "whore " 
and a "thief," when there is not the slightest ground for it. 
It is the same situation we shall note elsewhere when the 
peasant is unable to adjust his difficulties with his neighbors 
by social means and resorts to the courts as a pure expression 
of enmity, and with a total disregard of right or wrong. A 
case was recently brought before the juvenile court in 
Chicago which illustrates typically how completely the 
father may be unable to occupy any other standpoint than 
that of familial solidarity. The girl had left home and was 
on the streets. When appealed to by the court for sugges- 
tions and co-operation, the father always replied in terms 
of the wages of the girl she had not been bringing her 
earnings home. And when it appeared that he could not 
completely control her in this respect, he said: "Do what 
you please with her. She ain't no use to me." 

The last type of adaptation one requiring much change, 
but giving also much control is typically represented by 
the climbing tendency of the peasant and is always con- 



nected with an intellectual development. This ' adaptation 
brings also the greatest changes in the familial sentiments. 
Individualization is the natural result of rising above the 
primitive group and becoming practically independent of 
it. But at the same time, unlike the preceding type, this 
form of adaptation leads to qualitative changes in the 
concept of the family. -Indeed, the individual rises, not 
only above the family, but also above the community, and 
drops most of the traditional elements, and in this respect 
the result is analogous to that of the second type of adapta- 
tion.^ On the other hand he meets on this higher cultural 
level those more universal and conscious traditions which 
constitute the common content of Christian morality. The 
Christian elements were embodied in the system of peasant 
traditions, but they constituted only a part of the rich 
traditional stock, and their influence in peasant life was 
essentially different from that which the church as well as 
the popular Christian reflection wished it to be. Their 
power in peasant life was a power of social custom, while on 
a higher level of intellectual development and individualiza- 
tion they claim to be rational norms, directing the conscious 
individual morality. Thus, the familial attitudes of a 
peasant rising above his class undergo a double evolution: 
they are simplified, and they pass from the sphere of custom 
to that of conscious, reflective morality. Only a few funda- 
mental obligations are acknowledged, and in the sphere of 
these obligations the "moral" family coincides neither with 
the " traditional" family nor with the " natural " family the 
marriage-group. In its typical form it includes husband or 
wife, parents, children, brothers, and sisttrs. Its nucleus i 
no longer a group, but an individual. The husband has, for 
example, particular moral obligations toward his own parents, 
sisters, and brothers, but not toward the family of his wife. 
The moral obligations toward the members of the latter 


do not differ from those toward any friends or acquaint- 
ances, are not particularly familial obligations. And the 
consistency of this moral family does not depend any longer 
upon social factors, but merely upon the moral development 
of the individual assuming, of course, that the element of 
custom has been completely eliminated, which is seldom the 
case. We find aividuals who feel the obligation as a heavy 
burden and try to drop it as soon as possible; we find others 
who accept it readily and treat the family as an object of 
moral obligation even after it has lost its social reality. 

In distinguishing these four formal types of evolution 
of familial life we have of course abstractly isolated each 
of them and studied it in its fullest and most radical expres- 
sion. In reality, however, we find innumerable interme- 
diary and incomplete forms, and ,we must take this fact into 
consideration when examining k concrete materials. 1 


The Polish peasant family, as we have seen, is organized 
as a plurality of interrelated marriage-groups which are so 
many nuclei of familial life and whose importance is various 

1 The Polish terminology for familial relationship corroborates our definition 
of the family. We must distinguish, first of all, the use of familial names when 
speaking to a relative and about a relative to strangers. In the latter case the 
proper term is used, while in the first there is a tendency to substitute for it another 
term, indicating a much closer degree of relationship. When one is speaking about 
a relative within the family, both usages are possible. 

The proper terms, i.e., those used when one is speaking about a relative to 
strangers, are of three kinds: 

a) Terms which define a unique relation, such as mqz ("husband"), and zona 
("wife"), test ( 'father-in-law"), ojciec ("father"). Only the terms "husband" 
and "wife" remain unique when one is addressing a member of the family, while 
terms for blood-parents and blood-children are usually substituted for those which 
indicate a step- or law-relation of descent. 

b) Terms which essentially define a unique relation, but can be extended to 
any relation of a certain degree. Such are, for example, brat ("brother"), szwagier 
("brother-in-law"), dziadek ("grandfather"), wuj ("maternal uncle"), stryj 
("paternal uncle"). Their original meaning is the same as that of the correspond- 
ing English terms, but they are applied also to remoter degrees of relationship. 
If exactness is required, they are defined by special adjectives, but habitually, up 


and changing. The process of constitution and evolution 
of these nuclei is therefore the essential phenomenon of 
familial life. But at the same time there culminate in 
marriage many other interests of the peasant life, and we 
must take the role of these into consideration. 

i. Marriage from the familial standpoint. The whole 
familial system of attitudes involves absolutory the postulate 
of marriage for every member of the young generation. The 
family is a dynamic organization, and changes brought by 
birth, growth, marriage, and death have nothing of the 
incidental or unexpected, but are included as normal in the 
organization itself, continually accounted for and foreseen, 
and the whole practical life of the family is adapted to 
them. A person who does not marry within a certain time, 
as well as an old man v ^ does not die at a certain age, 
provokes in the family-group an attitude of unfavorable 
astonishment; they seem to have stopped in the midst of a 
continuous movement, and they are passed by and left 
alone. There are, indeed, exceptions. A boy (or girl) with 
some physical or intellectual defect is not supposed to marry, 

to the third and sometimes the fourth degree, no adjectives are required. Thus, a 
cousin of second degree is stryjeczny, wujeczny, or cioteczny brat ("brother through 
the paternal uncle, maternal uncle, or aunt"), or simply brctt; a father's paternal 
uncle is stryjeczny dziadek ("grandfather through the paternal uncle"), or simply 
dziadek, and so on. A wife's or husband's relative may be determined in the same 
way, with the addition "of my wife" or "of my husband." But if no particular 
exactness is necessary, this qualification is also omitted, except for collateral 
members (of the same generation), where law-relationship is indicated by particular 
terms (szwagier instead of brat). In addressing a member, not only all the qualifi- 
cations are omitted, but even for collateral members the terms "brother" and 
"sister" are often substituted for the special terms indicating law-relationship of 
any degree. 

c) Terms which are merely class-names. Of these there are only two: krewny 
and powinowaty, "blood-" and "law-relative." They are never used in addressing 
a person, and in general their usage is limited to cases where the degree and kind of 
relationship is forgotten or when the speaker does not desire to initiate the stranger 
more exactly. The intelligent classes sometimes use the French word cousin 
(Polonized, kuzyn), bjjf this custom has reached as yet only the lower middle class, 
not the peasant. 


and in his early childhood a corresponding attitude is 
adopted by the family and a place for him is provided 
beforehand. His eventual marriage will then provoke the 
same unfavorable astonishment as the bachelorship of 

The condemnation attached to not marrying is not so 
strong as that incurred by the omission of some elementary 
moral or religious duty, and with the growing complexity 
of social conditions cases are more and more frequent where 
a person remains unmarried through no fault of his own, and 
so the condemnation is becoming less and less. But the 
standard binds the parents of the marriageable person even 
more than the latter, and we see in many letters that the 
parents do not dare to put any obstacles in the way of the 
marriage of their child even if they foresee bad results for 
themselves from this marriage (estrangement of the child, or 
economic losses), and they persuade the child to marry even 
against their own interest. The contrary behavior (see 
Sekowski series) incurs immediate and strong social con- 
demnation. The only limitation of this principle is the 
question of the choice of the partner. But even this 
limitation disappears when the parents have no certainty 
that a better match than the one proposed will be arranged. 
It is better to make a bad marriage than not to marry at all. 

The traditional familial factor ceases to exert any 
influence upon the second marriage; no determined line of 
conduct is prescribed in this case by the familial organiza- 
tion except that marriage is viewed unfavorably after a 
certain age. 

The family not only requires its members to be married, 
but directs their choice. This is neither tyranny nor self- 
interest on the part of the parents nor solicitude for the 
future of the child, but a logical consequence of the individ- 
ual's situation in the familial group. The individual is a 


match only as member of the group and owing to the social 
standing of the family within the community and to the 
protection and help in social and economic matters given by 
the family. He has therefore corresponding responsibilities ; 
in marrying he must take, not only his own, but also the 
family's interests into consideration. These latter interests 
condition the choice of the partner in three respects: 

a) The partner in marriage is an outsider who through 
marriage becomes a member of the family. The family 
therefore requires in this individual a personality which will 
fit easily into the group and be assimilated to the group with 
as little effort as possible. Not only a good character, but 
a set of habits similar to those prevailing in the family to 
be entered, is important. Sometimes the prospective 
partner is unknown to the family, sometimes even unknown 
to the marrying member of the family, and in this case 
social guaranties are demanded. The boy or girl ought to 
come at least from a good family, belonging to the same 
class as the family to be entered, and settled if possible in 
the same district, since customs and habits differ from 
locality to locality. The occupation of a boy ought to be 
of such a kind as not to develop any undesirable, that is, 
unassimilable, traits. A girl should have lived at home and 
should not have done hired work habitually. A man should 
never have an occupation against which a prejudice exists 
in the community. In this matter there is still another 
motive of selection, that is, vanity. Finally, a widow or a 
widower is an undesirable partner, because more difficult to 
assimilate than a young girl or boy. If not only the future 
partner, but even his family, is unknown, the parents, or 
someone in their place, will try to get acquainted personally 
with some of his relatives, in order to inspect the general 
type of their character and behavior. Thence comes the 
frequent custom of arranging marriages through friends and 


relatives. This form of matchmaking is intermediary 
between the one in which the starting-point is personal 
acquaintance and the other in which the connection with 
a certain family is sought first through the sivaty (pro- 
fessional matchmaker) and personal acquaintance comes 
later. In this intermediary form the starting-point is the 
friendship with relatives of the boy or the girl. It is sup- 
posed that the future partner resembles his relatives in 
character, and at the same time that the family to which 
those relatives belong is worth being connected with. But 
this leads us to the second aspect of the familial control of 

b) The candidate for marriage belongs himself to a 
family, which through marriage will become connected with 
that of his wife. The familial group therefore assumes the 
right to control the choice of its member, not only with 
regard to the personal qualities of the future partner, but 
also with regard to the nature of the group with which it 
will be allied. The standing of the group within the com- 
munity is here the basis of selection. This standing itself 
is conditioned by various factors wealth, morality, intelli- 
gence, instruction, religiousness, political and social in- 
fluence, connection with higher classes, solidarity between 
the family members, kind of occupation, numerousness of 
the family, its more or less ancient residence in the locality, 
etc. Every family naturally tries to make the best possible 
alliance; at the same time it tries not to lower its own dignity 
by risking a refusal or by accepting at once even the best 
match and thereby showing too great eagerness. Thence 
the long selection and hesitation, real or pretended, on both 
sides, while the problem is not to discourage any possible 
match, for the range of possibilities open to an individual 
is a proof of the high standing of the family. Thence also 
such institutions as that of the matchmaker, whose task is 


to shorten the ceremonial of choosing without apparently 
lowering the dignity of the families involved. The relative 
freedom given to the individuals themselves, the apparent 
yielding to individual love, has in many cases its source in 
the desire to shorten the process of selection by shifting the 
responsibility from the group to the individual. In the 
traditional formal swaty is embodied this familial control 
of marriage. The young man, accompanied by the match- 
maker, visits the families with which his family has judged 
it desirable to be allied, and only among these can he select 
a girl. He is received by the parents of the girl, who first 
learn everything about him and his family and then encour- 
age him to call further or reject him at once. And the girl can 
select a suitor only among those encouraged by her family. 

c) A particular situation is created when widow or 
widower with children from the first marriage is involved. 
Here assimilation is very difficult, because no longer an 
individual, but a part of a strange marriage-group, has to be 
assimilated. At the same time the connection with the 
widow's or widower's family will be incomplete, because the 
family of the first husband or wife also has some claims. 
Therefore such a marriage is not viewed favorably, and there 
must be some real social superiority of the future partner 
and his or her family in order to counterbalance the inferior- 
ity caused by the peculiar familial situation. A second 
marriage is thus usually one which, if it were the first, would 
be a mesalliance. 

With the disintegration of the famlHal life there must 
come, of course, a certain liberation from the familial claims 
in matters of marriage. But this liberation itself may 
assume various forms. With regard to the personal qualities 
of his future wife, the man may neglect to consult his family 
and still apply the same principles of appreciation which his 


family would apply select a person whose character and 
habits resemble the type prevailing in his own family, a 
person whose relatives he knows, who comes perhaps from 
the same locality, etc. Therefore, for example, immigrants 
in America whose individualization has only begun always 
try to marry boys or girls fresh from the old country, if 
possible from their own native village. 

A second degree of individualization manifests itself in 
a more reasoned selection of such qualities as the individual 
wishes his future mate to possess in view of his own personal 
happiness and regardless of the family's desire. This type 
of selection prevails, for example, in most of the second 
marriages, when the individual has become fully conscious 
of what he desires from his eventual partner and when the 
feeling of his own importance, increasing with age, teaches 
him to neglect the possible protests of his family. It is 
also a frequent type in towns, where the individual associates 
with persons of various origins and habits. The typical and 
universal argument opposed here against any familial 
protests has the content: "I shall live with this person, not 
you, so it is none of your business." 

Finally, the highest form of individualization is found 
in the real love-marriage. While a reasoned determination 
of the qualities which the individual wishes to find in his 
future mate permits of some discussion, some familial 
control, and some influence of tradition, in the love-marriage 
every possibility of control is rejected a priori. Here, under 
the influence of the moment, the largest opportunity is given 
for matches between individuals whose social determinism 
differs most widely, though this difference is after all usually 
not very great, since the feeling of love requires a certain 

community of social traditions. 

2. Marriage from the standpoint of other social groups: 
territorial (community), national, religious, professional. 


The claims which the community has upon the individual 
in matters of marriage corroborate those of the family-group 
to the extent that every individual (except a future priest) 
is required to marry, if he is not hindered by a physical or 
an intellectual defect. The community demands from its 
members a steadiness of life which is necessary for its 
interior harmony; but a peasant individual can acquire 
this steadiness only after his marriage. The life of an 
unmarried man or woman bears essentially an unfixed 
character. A single person, as we know, cannot remain 
indefinitely with his family, for the latter is organized in 
view of the marriage of all of its members. He cannot 
carry on normal occupational activity alone cannot farm 
or keep a small shop he can be either only a hired laborer, 
living with strangers, or a servant. In both cases the 
sphere of his interests is much narrower than that of a 
married couple and his life has less fixity. A single person 
does not take an equal share with married couples in the life 
of the community; there is little opportunity for a reci- 
procity of services, still less for co-operation. He cannot 
even keep a house, receive, give entertainments, etc. He 
has nobody to provide for, no reason to economize. All 
these features of single life tend to develop either a spirit 
of revelry, vagabondage, and pauperism, or an egotistic 
isolation within a circle of personal interests both opposed 
to the fundamental set of peasant attitudes and undesirable 
for the group. 

Accordingly, the community gives a positive sanction to 
the marriage of its members. This is done in three ways: 
(i) Each wedding is a social event in itself, not limited 
to the families who intermarry, but participated in by 
the community, and the pleasure of being for some 
days the center of interest of the community is a strong 
motive in favor of marriage. (2) The community gives a 


higher social standing to its married members: after 
marriage they are addressed as "you" instead of "thou," 
they begin to play an active part in the commune, in the 
parish, in associations, etc. Unmarried individuals have 
a certain kind of social standing as members of families 
and prospective matches, but this kind of a standing 
decreases with age. (3) The private life of married couples 
is much less controlled by the community than that of 
unmarried persons. The control of the family hi normal 
conditions is thought perfectly sufficient for the first; the 
community interferes only in extraordinary cases of impor- 
tant familial misunderstandings. But an individual who 
does not marry in due time is supposed not to be sufficiently 
controlled by the family, and the community allows him no 

But the community, as a territorial group, assumes also 
a right to control the choice of its members whenever the 
question is raised of taking a partner from a different 
territorial group. The same right is claimed by the pro- 
fessional, the national, the religious groups, which usually 
do not interfere with the celibacy of their members nor 
with their marriage so long as this remains endogamous. 
In this respect the claims of these groups are different 
from the claims of the family, and may even be contra- 

First of all, an individual can belong at once to two 
families, but not normally to two territorial, professional, 
national, or religious groups. This leads to important 
differences of standpoint. 

Let us take first the case of a member of a social group 
who, by marriage, passes into a different group moves to 
another locality, takes a new profession, changes his national- 
ity or his religion. For the family such a fact may be more 
or less unpleasant, but only on account of the divergence of 


attitudes which thus arises between its members; but the 
individual who has passed into another social group is not 
necessarily lost; he may remain (if there are no other factors 
of disintegration) a real, solidary member of the family. 
On the contrary, for a territorial, professional, national, or 
religious group such an individual is lost, and, since no 
group likes to lose its members, every kind of exogamy 
which involves a passage into another group incurs a social 
condemnation. This condemnation is particularly strong 
if the individual, by passing into another group, renounces 
the essential values of his first group customs, traditions, 
ideals. Formerly, when the differences of custom and 
tradition between communities and professions were much 
greater than now, the marriage outside of a community or 
professional group was condemned very strongly; we find 
many traces of this stage in folklore. At present a change 
of locality incurs a relatively slight condemnation; a change 
of group professionally (as, for example, when a peasant 
girl marries a handworker) is only ridiculed; but a change 
of nationality or religion is still an almost unpardonable 
offense, the latter even a crime. And, of course, the family 
is influenced by the larger social group to which it belongs; 
the national and religious groups usually require that the 
family shall disown a renegade member, and the family in 
general complies with this demand and rejects such an 
individual, even if he wishes to keep the familial solidarity. 
The other side of the case is presented when a new 
member is brought through marriage into a social group. 
For the family, as we know, two questions are here involved : 
what is the social standing of the new member's family 
within the larger group to which it belongs, and what is the 
character of the new member. But for the social group the 
first question does not exist. The family indeed becomes 
connected through marriage with the new partner's family; 


and to it the social standing of the latter is important. But 
the community at large does not enter into any particular 
relation with another group by the mere fact of receiving 
a member from it, and it cares little for the other group's 
standing. Therefore the family may occasionally acquiesce 
in the fact that its member marries a girl who will be 
assimilated with difficulty, if the family of this girl has a 
particularly high social standing is very rich, instructed, of 
good origin, or influential. The benefit of being connected 
with such a family may be greater than the displeasure of 
having an unadaptable new member. But for the com- 
munity those reasons cannot overshadow the only point 
which counts for it, namely, how will the new member be 
assimilated ? This depends, of course, upon the nature of 
social customs and traditions which he brought with him, 
and the more they differ from those which prevail in the 
given group the greater is the social condemnation of 
exogamy. This condemnation is usually strengthened by 
the jealousy of the marriageable members of the group, their 
parents and relatives. The exogamous member is judged 
to lack the feeling of solidarity and to inflict a humiliation 
upon the group by selecting a stranger. Sometimes the 
attitude of the group is rather mixed, as when a person of a 
different nationality or religion, in marrying into the group, 
accepts its national or religious ideals; there usually remains 
enough difference of traditions and habits to provoke a 
certain unreceptivity in the group, but the spirit of prosely- 
tism is flattered. And so it happens, for example, that a 
converted Jew is laughed at within the Christian community, 
but defended against his former co-religionists. 

As the new member is not backed by his old group, his 
position is usually rather helpless. No particular social 
norm arises from this intermarriage analogous to the norm 
of respect between husband and wife, which has its source in 


the fact that both belong still to their respective family- 
groups. Only a complete assimilation neutralizes the lack 
of cordiality of the social group toward the new member. 

3. Marriage from the economic point of view. In order 
to understand the economic side of marriage we must 
remember (i) that marriage is not a mere relation of individ- 
uals but the constitution of a new social unit, the marriage- 
group, in which two familial groups intersect, while each 
of these preserves to a degree its own integrity, and (2) 
that the question of property, particularly of property in 
land, is not in peasant life a merely economic, but a social, 
question; the meaning of property is determined by social 

From these points results the general principle that both 
families are obliged to contribute to the economic existence 
of the newly married couple by giving dowries corresponding 
to their own situation. A family which does not give a 
sufficient dowry to a boy or girl proves either that it is poor 
or that it lacks solidarity, and in general lowers its own 
social standing. 

Fundamentally the aim of the dowry is not merely to 
help the married couple to get a living, but to enable them 
to keep on the same social level as that of their families 
to avoid being outclassed. As long as the boy and girl live 
with their parents they belong to the latter's class, even if 
they have then nothing of their own; but if they had no 
property to manage when starting their own household, 
they would pass into the class of hired laborers. The 
economic form in which this tendency to avoid being out- 
classed expresses itself is always the establishing for or by 
the newly married couple of a business of their own; and 
this principle applies indeed to all the old social classes 
handworkers, bourgeoisie, nobility for up to fifty years 
ago the difference between hired work and independent work 


constituted a social as well as an economic difference; and 
to a certain extent this remains true today. Among the 
peasants property in land is evidently the basis of this 
difference, and therefore the practice of dowry is adapted 
to the solution of the problem of making every young 
married couple own a farm. It is clear also that in most 
cases this problem can be solved only by a contribution 
from both families. Usually these contributions are so 
arranged that the family of the boy gives land, the family , 
of the girl money, because land means more than money 
and a husband settling on his wife's land loses some of his 
dignity as head of the marriage-group, and is usually looked 
down upon by other farmers. 

The peasant practice of inheritance is to leave the 
undivided farm to one son, who has then the obligation of 
paying off his brothers and sisters, and for this purpose he 
must have a large dowry in cash from his wife. The father 
is seldom able to put aside money enough to give the other 
children their parts, and mortgaging the farm, in view of 
the half-sacred character of land property, is hated by the 
peasant, aside from the fact that it often means ruin. The 
division of the farm is, as far as possible, limited by tradi- 
tion; below a certain size even by law. The sale of the 
farm is avoided even after the death of the parents, and is 
never possible during their life. Sale, division, or mort- 
gaging of the farm means a lowering of the social standing 
of the family. The head of the family, who has worked 
during his whole life upon the farm, wants his work to be 
continued by his son on the same scale. In short, it is a ( 
familial duty of one son at least to marry rich. 

But even if the farm were divided or sold, each son 
would hardly be able to farm without getting some dowry, 
and the family of the wife would never allow her to live in 
very poor conditions if it could prevent it. The same is true 


of the sons who are paid off by their brother; they seldom 
get money enough to buy a farm sufficient for living, espe- 
cially since the son who takes the farm is usually favored 
in the settlement. 

There are of course cases when there is no necessity of 
taking a dowry. For example, the only son of a sufficiently 
rich farmer is free to marry without money. But as the 
dowry has not only a practical value, but is also an expres- 
sion of the family's importance and solidarity, the custom is 
usually kept up unless the family of the poor girl has for 
some reason a relatively high social standing in spite of 

Exactly the same social and economic reasons oblige a 
girl who has some dowry to marry a boy with property. 
The dowry is seldom sufficient to buy a farm and thus to 
keep the social level which the girl had in her family; and 
even if it should be large enough, the girl's family will 
seldom allow her to marry a poor boy, because it would be 
considered a proof that the girl had no suitors of a higher 
social standing, and therefore that she had some personal 

There are many exceptions to this general rule, but they 
admit of special explanations. , A boy or girl who is already 
declassed or whose family did not belong originally to the 
class of farmers (or masters of handicraft) is not socially 
obliged to marry with dowry. It is customary for the young 
couple to have money or goods enough to furnish the house, 
and both families are obliged to help them as far as possible. 
The familial solidarity is still strong; but since property 
which has not the form of an independent business does not 
determine the social standing of the family as does land or 
a master-workman's position, the consideration of dowry 
plays a quite subordinate role in the selection of a mate. 
A boy who has money enough to furnish the house may 


marry freely a girl who has nothing except her personal 
clothing and household linen, and a girl with some money 
may marry a completely poor boy ; there is no real inequality 
in either case. If the question of dowry is often raised, it is 
rather a remnant of the traditional attitude, or an imitation 
of the owning classes, not an actual social or economic 

A real marriage for money, that is, one in which a poor 
boy or girl selects intentionally a partner with some fortune, ' 
always incurs a social condemnation or at least ridicule. 
In the case of a craftsman who needs a dowry in order to 
establish his own shop the condemnation is very slight. He 
ought not, indeed, to count exclusively upon the dowry, but 
since acquired handicraft was equivalent to capital in the 
old guild tradition, and a journeyman was often pushed into 
the master-class by his wife's family, dowry under these 
circumstances has lost its social disapproval. But social 
opinion knows no justification for a poor country boy or girl 
who by making a rich match passes into the farmer-class; 
the members of the latter consider it the worst kind of 
climbing. And it is still worse if the unskilled city workman 
marries a rich girl. He cannot use the dowry productively 
in any line of handicraft, and so is supposed to make the 
rich marriage only for the sake of being lazy and enjoying 
pleasure at his wife's expense. In the two latter cases the 
condemnation is perhaps strengthened by the fact that in 
such matches the richer party is usually either much older, 
or personally unattractive, or with some moral stain, etc., 
since otherwise he or she could have made a better choice. 
Thus a marriage which is most evidently made for the sake 
of money is most clearly considered abnormal. Even if 
there are no personal disadvantages on the side of the richer 
party, the match is almost certainly concluded against the 
will of his or her family and incurs condemnation from this 


reason also. And, generally speaking, the economic relation 
of the parties in marriage is subjected to a moral apprecia- 
tion, only if it appears as a personal, not a familial, arrange- 
ment, on one side or on both. 

From the economic point of view a second marriage 
presents a particular problem. In the case of a widow or 
widower the normal control of the family is greatly dimin- 
ished, since these have more importance within the family- 
group than the bachelor or girl, and their private life has 
acquired through marriage more independence. The prob- 
lem of keeping the same social standing is also involved, but 
usually there is less danger of losing it, for the widow or 
widower already has property. In this case the personal 
help of the second husband or wife in keeping the farm and 
household going is normally a sufficient economic contribu- 
tion, and no capital is needed. If there are children from the 
first marriage, the situation is more complicated, for the 
family of their parent has an interest in them and in the 
maintenance of their social position, especially in view of 
the eventual children from the second marriage. The lot 
of these children must also be considered, and a dowry is 
therefore sometimes required even in a second marriage. 
But it is much more difficult to get. Indeed, since the 
widow's or widower's marriage-value is much lower than 
that of a maid or a bachelor, a claim of this kind on the 
basis of social, and therefore also of economic, equality 
would be unjustified. 

There is a double evolution of the economic side of mar- 
riage, influenced on the one hand by the dissolution of the old 
class-hierarchy and substitution of a new class-organization, 
and on the other by the process of economic individualization. 

The old social classes are becoming mingled and 
intermarriage is more and more frequent. At the same 


time new criteria of social superiority appear in place of 
the old ones, or along with them, and an equilibration of 
different advantages becomes possible. The old advantages 
of fortune or good birth may be offset by instruction or off- 
set each other. Within the economic sphere itself the stand- 
point of income begins to compete with that of property; 
hired work loses its socially depreciative character, etc. 
Thus marriages are more and more frequent in which some 
other social superiority is put forward by one side as against 
the property brought by the other party, and such mating 
becomes more and more normal hi social opinion and more 
and more easily acknowledged by families on either side. 
At the same time economically unequilibrated matches 
become gradually more possible because of the liberation of 
the individual from the pressure of the family and com- 
munity. Still it is clear that the possibility of showing a real 
disinterestedness depends upon the economic conditions set 
by the environment. We must remember that hi the 
Polish country life of the lower classes the possibility of 
economic advance is very small, as compared even with that 
of the Polish city life, and quite insignificant in comparison 
with that of American life. On the contrary, there are 
numerous possibilities of retrogression as the population 
increases. . Thus a married couple does well if it succeeds 
in keeping to the end the economic standard of life with 
which it started, and it is natural for them to try to start 
with as high a standard as possible. Disinterestedness 
would be a luxury for which the children as well as the 
parents would pay. Marriages quite free from economic 
considerations become, therefore, practically possible only 
in some parts of the country where season-emigration is 
practiced, to some extent in Polish industrial cities, and 
particularly in America, where they are, indeed, almost the 



4. Marriage from the sexual point of mew. The sexual 
factor, as a mere necessity of sexual satisfaction, aside from 
the question of individualized love, must play of course an 
important role as a motive of marriage in general, although 
it is somewhat difficult to determine to what extent the 
want of sexual satisfaction is consciously conceived as a 
reason for marriage. Certainly the popular songs and 
jokes of young people show that sexuai tendencies are 
developed before any actual sexual intercourse. Both sexes 
mix frequently together in work and play, and sexual 
desires must arise. But, on the other hand, their develop- 
ment depends upon marriage as a social institution. Indeed, 
the social activities which are most favorable to their 
development have all, mediately or immediately, marriage 
hi view. There is a stock of sexual information and atti- 
tudes acquired before puberty, and this is not conditioned 
by the idea of marriage. But after puberty the boy and the 
girl always look upon each other as possible matches, and 
social intercourse between the sexes is always arranged with 
marriage in view. All the entertainments which are not 
merely ceremonial have this aim. An interesting fact 
shows how the sexual side of this preliminary intercourse 
is institutional and socially controlled. No indecent allu- 
sions are ever allowed in a private conversation between 
boy and girl, but any indecent allusion can be made publicly, 
in the form of a song or joke, at a gathering where young 
people of both sexes are present. 

And marriage is the only form in which sexual satis- 
faction can be obtained. Illegal relations before marriage 
are relatively rare, not so much because of any particular 
moral self-restraint as, once more, because of the familial 
control, reinforced by the control of social opinion and 
exerted in view of the future marriage. Sexual intercourse 
before marriage is normally and immediately treated by the 


boy, the girl, the family, and the community as an illicit 
extension of the sexual preliminaries of marriage, but 
anticipatory of marriage, and it leads almost universally to 
marriage, even when, under the influence of disintegrating' 
factors, it becomes frequent. The idea of sexual inter- 
course per se, without relation to marriage, plays hardly 
any part in the primitive peasant organization of life. 
Therefore the main reason for the prohibition of sexual 
intercourse before marriage is to be sought in the familial 
form of marriage itself. The boy and girl who begin sexual 
relations before marriage begin also in fact the marriage- 
relation, thus avoiding the familial control and trifling with 
the social sanction expressed in the whole series of marriage- 
ceremonies. This must evidently lead to a disorganization 
of the whole marriage system. Even if a match arranged 
in this way is one agreeable to the respective families, still 
in form it is a rebellion against the familial authority and a 
neglect of the community. 

After marriage sexual intercourse ceases almost com- 
pletely to be a social problem; it is intentionally ignored by 
society. Conjugal infidelity in normal conditions is not 
assumed to exist; it is very seldom even spoken of, and, if 
it occurs, is unconditionally condemned, equally in man 
and woman. But even the legal sexual relation between 
man and wife is the object of a very far-going discretion. 
It is never mentioned when one is talking about marriage; 
even by the married couple itself, in private conversation 
or letters, sexual allusions are scrupulously avoided. In a 
few cases where we find them they are accompanied by 
apologies. It seems as if the whole sexual question were 
felt, not so much as impure, as incongruous with the normal 
and socially sanctioned conjugal relation, which, for the 
social consciousness, is fundamentally a familial relation, 
belonging to the same type as other relations between 


members of a family. Conjugal sexual life is not institu- 
tionalized, as is courtship, nor morally regulated, as is family 
life, but is reduced to a minimum and left out of considera- 
tion. It is a curious fact that in spite of ten centuries of 
Christian influence there is a disharmony between the 
peasant attitude and the standpoint of the church. The 
latter conceives marriage as precisely a regulation and 
institutionalization of sexual intercourse and, far from 
avoiding allusions to sexual matters, subjects them to an 
analysis and valuation which, though mainly negative, is 
very detailed. Frequent misunderstandings therefore arise 
between the priest and his parishioners, particularly if the 
former is not of peasant origin. 

Sexual life in general is thus completely subordinated to 
marriage, is regulated in view of marriage before the 
ceremony and denied any independent value after the 
ceremony. In a later volume we shall treat the process 
which leads to a development of sexual life outside and 
independent of marriage. Here we can only indicate that 
the sexual factor is beginning to play a more important 
role in marriage by determining more and more its selection. 

In a perfect familial and social organization the individual 
can choose his partner within the limits indicated above, 
but this free choice is itself not exclusively determined by 
sexual love, because the development of sexual love is 
dependent upon the whole system of courtship. Not only 
is the individual prohibited from selecting outside of the 
relatively narrow circle of socially possible matches, but 
even within this circle his possibilities of choice are further 
restrained by all the formalities which make the exclusive- 
ness of sexual love a matter of the gradual elimination of all 
matches but one. An immediate falling in love, leading 
directly to engagement, is psychologically impossible. In 
most cases it is not only true that all the possible partners 


are known from childhood which is evidently an important 
obstacle to a rapid infatuation but indecision, careful 
selecting, taking of all possibilities into account, are tradi- 
tional attitudes, originating in familial considerations, but 
transferred to matters of love. This indecision is reinforced 
by the limitations of speech mentioned above; expressions 
of love containing even the faintest sexual allusion are 
socially sanctioned only when publicly made and con- 
sequently impersonal or half -impersonal; private declara- 
tions are very limited. For the normal young boy or girl, 
therefore, there are a certain number of persons of the other / 
sex more or less pleasing, and all of them are sexually 
acceptable. The ultimate choice is then made under the 
influence of the family, or for various reasons all these 
possibilities fall away one by one and the decision settles 
upon the one remaining. The only case when this "liking" 
of one person among others can ripen into love before 
marriage is when for some reason the two individuals have 
more opportunity to meet each other than anyone else. 
After the engagement, and particularly after marriage, 
exclusiveness is attained, but precisely then the love-relation 
changes into the respect-relation. Of course, there is often - 
love shortly before and after the wedding, but it is gradually 
submerged by familial and economic interests. 

The first stage of the liberation of the factor of sexual 
love is actually the illegal sexual intercourse before marriage. 
We call it the first stage, because it exists at the very 
beginning of individualization, if external conditions are 
favorable. Thus, among the young season-emigrants to 
Germany, and even among wandering season-laborers on 
Polish estates, who are isolated from their families and com- 
munities for from seven to ten months and have the oppor- 
tunity to meet privately, almost 50 per cent have sexual 
intercourse and then marry after coming home, or even send 


money to their priest during the season, asking for the 
publication of their banns. Here the mere "liking" grows 
into sexual love, thanks to the actual sexual intercourse, and 
may become strong enough to cause the young people to 
take upon themselves the whole responsibility for their 
marriage, though usually the permission of the parents 
is obtained before the priest is asked to publish the 

The second form of the liberation of sexual love is more 
normal, because it requires no exceptional conditions and 
does not break the traditional sexual morality; but on the 
other hand it shows a higher stage of individualization. We 
find it particularly often in America, but also in Polish 
cities. It consists in the reduction of all the complicated 
process of selection and courtship to an offhand proposal 
to a girl who "pleases" after a relatively short personal 
acquaintance. If the girl rejects the proposal, the boy tries 
to find another whom he "likes" and repeats the perfor- 
mance. This way of concluding a marriage shows a very 
important evolution of the traditional attitudes. It is 
possible only when all the familial, social, or economic 
motives have lost their influence and the indecision, the 
hesitation among many possibilities, is no longer artificially 
maintained. The boy or girl desires to marry in general, 
and in this mood, after the liberation from all social pressure, 
the slight "liking" (which under the old conditions would 
only suffice to put the person liked among those from whom 
a closer selection would be made) becomes a sufficient 
impulse to start the decisive action. 

Finally, the last stage is attained when this "liking," 
under the influence of a general cultural progress, and 
particularly of a development of imagination and feeling 
made independent of practical activity, grows into a typical 
"romantic" love, in which the sexual element is neither 


stifled, as in the traditional conditions, nor given in its 
crude form, as in sexual intercourse before marriage, but 
exalted and idealized, and the exclusiveness results neither 
from institutional reasons nor from habit, but from a rich 
complexity of feelings and ideas connected with the given 


In the present state of Polish society there is a general 
revaluation of social distinctions, a breaking down of the old 
social hierarchy and an establishment of a new one. This 
process is going on more rapidly hi certain parts of the 
country (it is the slowest in Galicia), but everywhere it 
includes also the peasants and the lower city classes and 
exerts a great influence upon the psychology of the younger 
generation in particular. 

The old class-organization presents two independent and 
partly parallel social hierarchies that of the country and 
that of the town population. The first is fundamental, the 
second additional. 

The highest rank hi the first hierarchy (and completely 
dominating the second as well) was occupied by a few 
families of great nobility. At the time of Poland's inde- 
pendence they occupied the highest official posts, kept their 
own armies, directed politics, etc. After Poland's partition 
their political influence disappeared. At present fortune, 
tradition, and in most cases title (there were no recognized 
titles in Poland before the partition, except for a few 
Lithuanian and Ruthenian princes) are all that distinguish 
these forty or fifty families from the rest of the nobility. 
The numerous middle nobility constitutes the second 
stratum. Then comes the peasant nobility, distinguished 
from the middle nobility by the lack of fortune and culture, 
from the peasant, formerly by its rights, now only by 



tradition. 1 Then coirfe the peasant farmers, formerly 
classified into crown peasants (almost completely free, but 
having no political rights), church peasants, and private 
serfs. Finally comes the landless peasants. It was in fact 
not possible during Poland's independence to draw an 
absolute line between any two contiguous classes; particu- 
larly the gradation of noble families on one side, the grada- 
tion of peasant families on the other, was continuous, and 
between the lowest noble and the highest peasant families 
the distinction was political, not social. But the position 
of each family was very exactly determined; rising and 
falling were possible, but very seldom within a single 
generation. And as far as the social organization still 
persists, the same is true at present. 

On the other hand, the town population was also hier- 
archized, mainly upon the basis of fortune, secondarily upon 
that of culture and birth. The highest place was occupied 
in every large town by some wealthy trades-families; then 
came the intellectual workers and the craftsmen; then the 
petty merchants and unskilled workers. Politically the 
rights of the old bourgeoisie, except in town administration, 
were lower than those of the nobility in general; socially the 
position of old and rich bourgeois families ranked with that 

'"Peasant nobility" is a class found only in Poland and called in Polish 
szlachta zasciankowa, "village nobility," szlachta zagonowa, "bed-nobility" (refer- 
ring to their small beds of land), and szlachta szaraczkowa, "gray nobility." They 
had almost full political rights, and coats-of-arms like the rest of the nobility. 
Usually one large family of the same name occupied a whole village and even 
several villages. They were quite independent economically, but as they had no 
serfs they were in the same economic condition as the peasants. Their origin 
dates back mainly to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They were usually 
the descendants of warriors endowed with land by the dukes, and sank to their 
low economic and social level as a consequence of their numerical increase and the 
division of land. They were and are still particularly numerous in the ancient 
duchy of Mazovia (unified with the kingdom of Poland in 1525-27); thence large 
numbers of them emigrated to, and organized large settlements in, Lithuania and 
Ruthenia. At the end of the eighteenth century they outnumbered the middle 
nobility 40x3,000 as against 300,000. 


of the middle nobility. Outside of both hierarchies, and in 
fact, with rare exceptions, outside of Polish social life in 
general, was the Jew. 

As early as the end of the eighteenth century many 
factors began to contribute to a gradual dissolution of this 
system, and the process of dissolution reached the lower 
classes some thirty or forty years ago. The " Constitution 
of May 3" (1791) gave political rights to the bourgeoisie, 
but the later loss of independence made all political privileges 
illusory. The process of personal and economic liberation 
of the peasants, begun before the second partition and 
carried on by private initiative and legal acts, was completed 
in 1864. The development of industry, the ruin of many 
noble families after each revolution through confiscation 
of their fortunes, the agricultural crisis caused by foreign 
importation, the spread of instruction and democratic 
ideas, are all factors destroying the content of old distinc- 
tions while leaving the form. The process is still going 
on, and the actual situation may be stated in the follow- 
ing way. 

First, there are still the old classes, wherever the con- 
ditions permit a certain isolation and the development 
of a strong class-consciousness that is, wherever the class 
is at the same time a social group with real intercourse and 
common interests. The factors which keep the old class- 
consciousness strong are mainly territorial vicinity and 
identity of occupation. Thus, the old families of middle 
nobility settled in some district or province, the old bourgeois 
families in large towns, the peasant families or the peasant 
nobility settled in the same village or parish from imme- 
morial time these have still a class-feeling strong enough 
to resist any external influences. They do not admit 
anybody from a lower class, and they do not try to get 
into a higher class. But these scattered groups have 


among themselves a feeling of congeniality and of equal- 
ity; and intermarriage creates among them new links of 

But these groups, without being exactly dissolved, are 
diminishing through a process whose mechanism is deter- 
mined by the nature of their own constitution as well as by 
the changes which the economic and political evolution of 
the country brings with it. The economic form corre- 
sponding to the social system expressed in these groups is 
that of familial property, that is, property, parts of which 
are under the management, not in the complete ownership, 
of the individual. In this form of economic organization 
the class can subsist as a real social group because through 
it territorial vicinity and identity of occupation can be 
preserved through a series of generations, and class- 
consciousness can persist even if it has no longer any real 
basis in the political organization. Under these conditions, 
if an individual is unable to maintain his part of the family 
fortune the family helps him and controls him, and as far 
as possible hinders his ruin. But this control and help 
are of course limited. The family may be unable to help, 
it may be unwilling to help, or the individual may be 
unwilling to accept any control, if for some reason the 
attitude of solidarity is weakened or the strain is too great. 
And the economic changes of the last century make the 
preservation of the old forms of property more and more 
difficult, particularly since the lack of political independence 
did not permit the development of any adequate social 
mechanism to facilitate the modernization of the ancient 
economy in agriculture, handiwork, and commerce. Thus 
the cases in which the family cannot save the individual from 
ruin, or even where the whole family is ruined, are very fre- 
quent. And when the modernization of economy is finally 
attained, it usually proves that greater individualization 


of property is required, the familial solidarity is thus 
weakened, and the individual is left more or less to his own 

But any member of the class-group who ceases to be a 
proprietor is declassed. He cannot maintain the old social 
relations on a basis of equality; he must usually leave his 
territorial group in search of work; he loses community of 
interest with his class, and, above all, he has to do hired 
work he becomes dependent. Now there is hardly another 
economic distinction so profoundly rooted in Polish con- 
sciousness as that between independent work on the person's 
own property and hired work. The occasion of this, as is 
shown by our analysis of the economic attitudes, is threefold: 
(i) hired work, before the development of industry, meant 
almost always "service," including personal dependence of 
the employee on the employer; (2) hired work in whatever 
form has the character of compulsory work as opposed to 
free work; (3) hired work is more individual than inde- 
pendent work, and bears no direct relation to the familial 
organization. (Of course professional work, based on fee, 
not on wages, must be distinguished from hired work.) 

The loss of class is seldom complete in the first genera- 
tion. The individual still keeps the attitudes of his class- 
group and personal connection with its members. Even 
in the second, sometimes in the third, generation some 
attitudes remain, personal relations are not completely 
severed, the familial tradition is kept up, and the question of 
birth plays a role. 

In this way, during the last century and particularly 
during the last fifty years, there has been a continually 
growing number of those who have lost class, derived from 
all the social classes of the old complicated hierarchy. But 
while a hundred years ago these outclassed individuals 
hung about their old class in some subordinate position, the 



industrial and commercial development of the country has 
opened for them new lines of activity and new fields of 
interest, while the progress of instruction and of modern 
social ideology has helped to construct new principles of 
social distinction, class-solidarity, and class-hierarchy. The 
result is that along with the declining, but still strong, old 
social organization there exists in growing strength a new 
organization, based upon quite different principles and 
tending gradually to absorb the first. 

An interesting feature of this new organization, dis- 
tinguishing it from parallel social structures in France, 
Germany, or Italy, is that the principle of hierarchization 
is in the first place intellectual achievement, and only hi the 
second place wealth, in its modern forms of capital and 
income. This is due mainly to two factors. First, while 
hi other societies the rich bourgeoisie, by becoming the 
capitalistic class in the modern sense, constituted the 
nucleus of the new hierarchization, in Poland the old Polish 
bourgeoisie was too weak to play the same role; its number 
was small, its wealth limited. Not only was the town life 
less developed in Poland than in the West, but the Polish 
bourgeoisie had to share its role of capitalistic class with the 
Jews, who, being themselves outside of Polish society, could 
not impose the capitalistic principle of social distinction. 
On the contrary, the fact that the Jews were to a large 
extent representatives of the capitalistic economy has 
certainly helped to maintain, almost up to the present time, 
a certain contempt toward "money-making" and the 
attitudes of business in general. At the same time, after 
the fall of Poland the conditions were not favorable for the 
constitution of a bureaucracy, except, to a certain extent, in 
Galicia. The "intellectual aristocracy" was therefore 
almost unrivaled, and succeeded in imposing its standard 
of values upon the whole new system. The second factor 


which helped the intellectual aristocracy to do this was the 
loss of political independence and the subsequent efforts 
to keep the Polish culture in spite of political oppression. 
Every intellectual achievement appeared in this light as 
bearing a general national value. When later the capital- 
istic class grew in power, it had to accept, more or less, either 
the standard of the new intellectual class or that of the old 
aristocracy, and it still hesitates between the two, but with 
a marked inclination toward the first. Its wealth gives it 
an additional superiority over the intellectual, not over the 
birth, aristocracy, and it is easier to satisfy the intellectual- 
istic standard than that of birth. Thus, the new hierarchy 
gains in extension, while at the same time the intellectual 
criterion becomes complicated by that of wealth. And 
those criteria go down to the lowest strata of society. 

There is, of course, a continual passage of individuals 
from the old hierarchy to the new, and on the other hand 
a growing infiltration of individuals and families of the 
new class into the old class-groups through marriage and 
property. But the old bourgeoisie is already largely 
amalgamated with the new class-organization; the middle 
nobility began to amalgamate with it some thirty or forty 
years ago, and the process is going on, although rather 
slowly; the amalgamation of the peasant began in the 
present generation. Only the highest aristocracy and the 
peasant nobility remain still isolated in their class-groups, 
though losing members continually. 

Finally, the individually Polonized Jews and foreigners, 
when they settle in Poland and become assimilated, are 
received into the new organization. The same can be said 
of the bureaucrats. 

In this new hierarchy we can distinguish four classes. 
The highest class is constituted by those who, besides a 
sufficient degree of instruction (university) and an indispen- 


sable social refinement, have some particular superiority in 
any line wealth, talent, very good birth, high political, 
bureaucratic, or social position. The middle class the 
essential part of this hierarchy is composed of profes- 
sionals: lawyers, physicians, professors, higher technicians, 
literary men, tradesmen of middle fortune, higher employees. 
University instruction and a certain minimum of good 
manners are, generally speaking, the criteria delimiting this 
class from the lower middle class. The latter is the most 
important for us in the present connection, because it is 
the usual medium through which the peasant rises above 
his own class, for in the old social hierarchy he could not do 
this. His old social position corresponds, in fact, somewhat 
to one between the lower middle class and the workman 
class, and he may now rise to the one or fall to the other. 

In the city the lower middle class is composed of shop- 
keepers, craftsmen, lower post and governmental officials, 
railway officials, private clerks and salesmen, etc. To this 
class in the country belong manor officials (farm-managers, 
stewards, clerks,' distillers, foresters) ; commune secretaries, 
teachers, organists; rich shopkeepers and mill-owners, etc. 
But we must remember that the criterion is not so much the 
position itself as the degree of instruction which this requires 
and the average cultural level of the men who occupy it, and 
that a man of good birth, good manners, and higher instruc- 
tion, even if filling an inferior position, does not fall below 
the middle class. On the other hand, lack of instruction 
and bad manners hardly permit even a relatively rich man 
to rise to the middle-class level. Thus it may happen that 
a clerk belongs to a higher social niveau than his employer 
and is received in circles which are closed to the latter. 

In the city the lower middle class is connected by 
imperceptible gradations with the working class and in the 
country with that of manor servants; the differences become 


smaller the lower the social level. While education still 
retains its value, the kind of occupation, money, dress, are 
beginning to play a more important r61e. The criteria 
which usually exclude a man definitely from the lower 
middle class and place him in that of the workman are 
unskilled labor and illiteracy, though the contrary does not 
hold good; that is, an occupation requiring some special 
skill or reading and writing does not place a man above the 
working class. 

Of course all kinds of pauperism and vice declass a man 
definitely, put him outside of both the old and the new 
hierarchy. Beggars, tramps, criminals, prostitutes, have 
no place in the class-hierarchy. The same holds true of 
Jews, except those who are Polonized, and to some extent of 
Polish servants in Jewish houses. In Russian and German 
Poland the officials and the army are outside of Polish 
social life. 

This system of social distinctions is even more com- 
plicated than we have here described it; the distinctions 
become sometimes almost imperceptible, but they are very 
real, and their influence in the new hierarchy is even greater 
than in the old, because in the former they stimulate 
uncommonly the climbing tendency. Under the old system 
progress in social standing requires the collaboration of the 
greater part of the family-group, is necessarily slow, and 
no showing-off can make the individual appear as belonging 
to a higher class than his family, for where his family is 
known, his social standing is determined, and where it is 
not known, he has no real social standing. Particularly 
since the old class is a plurality of class-groups, unified by 
territorial and professional solidarity, and connected from 
group to group by a feeling of identical traditions and 
interests (sometimes by intermarriage), social advance is 
essentially not passing into a higher class, but rising within 


the given class-group. The factors which permit a family 
to rise are the development of property along the line of the 
occupations of the class (land in the country, buildings and 
trade in the town), practical intelligence, moral integrity, 
and, in general, all the qualities which assure an influence 
upon the class-group, such as good marriages within the 
class-group, familial solidarity. 

On the contrary, in the new social organization an 
individual (or marriage-group) can rise alone and rapidly. 
He is easily tempted to show off, to adopt the external 
distinctions of the superior class in order to appear as 
belonging to it, and, if he is clever enough, this showing- 
off helps him to rise. And the rise itself is here essentially 
a passing into the higher class, facilitated by the fact that 
the criteria are so complicated that the territorial or pro- 
fessional groups in this organization have not the importance 
of real class-groups, and that no groups can have the 
stability and impenetrability which the old groups possessed 
before the dropping of the familial principle. The factors 
of climbing are here instruction, economic development 
rather as an increase of income than as an acquisition of 
property wit, tact, a certain refinement of manners, and, 
in general, qualities which assure, not the influence upon a 
given social environment, but the adaptation to a new social 
environment, including marriage above one's own class 
and breaking of familial solidarity. 

It is easy to understand how this new, fluid, individual- 
istic class-hierarchy, opening so many possibilities of social 
progress, must be attractive to the members of a society 
in which the question of social standing and class-distinction 
always played an exceptionally important role. It has 
enough of democracy to permit anyone to rise and enough 
of aristocracy to make the rise real. Particularly among 
peasants its influence must be felt more and more, as with 


the dismembering of land and growing proletarization of the 
country inhabitants the possibility of rising within the 
peasant community is closed for a large part of the young 

Since passing into the new organization and rising within 
it involve a far-going modification of the traditional atti- 
tudes, there arises an estrangement, and sometimes a 
struggle, between the old and new generations, and of this 
we have numerous examples in this and the following 

In general, the attitude of the members of the traditional 
class-groups toward the old and the new class-hierarchy is 
very characteristic. All the old classes, from the highest 
aristocracy down to the peasant, are based, as we have seen, 
upon the same general principles, and to this extent they 
understand each other's attitudes. This understanding is 
particularly close between country classes, where an iden- 
tity of occupation creates a common universe of discourse; 
but it is not lacking either between the town and country 
population, wherever they meet. And, more than this, 
even the Jew, although outside of the Polish society, is 
understood by the noble and the peasant and understands 
them. This understanding between the old classes does not 
exclude antagonism, hostility, and mistrust whenever whole 
groups are concerned, whenever the peasant, the noble, 
the Jew, the handworker, meet upon the ground of antag- 
onistic class-interests. But it makes possible a curious 
closeness of relations between individuals wherever class- 
antagonisms are for a shorter or longer time out of the 
question. And in spite of all antagonisms and hostilities, a 
member of any class-group wants the members of any other 
class to be true and perfect representatives of their class- 
spirit, to incorporate fully all the traditional attitudes of the 
class, including even those which are the basis of class- 



antagonisms. Thus, the peasant wants the noble to be a 
lord in the full sense of the word, proud but humane and 
just, living luxuriously, unconcerned about money, but a 
good farmer; not easily cheated or robbed by his servants 
or even by his peasant neighbors, but consciously generous, 
conservative, religious, etc. in a word, to have those 
features which, while putting him at an inaccessible distance 
above the peasant, still make him familiar and possible to 

On the contrary, the members of the old class-groups 
do not understand at all the new men. There is no class- 
antagonism; on the contrary, in many cases there is a 
solidarity of interests which may be even acknowledged. In 
spite of this, individual relations between members of the 
old and the new hierarchy can hardly ever be very close, 
except, of course, in so far as a member of a new social class 
still keeps some attitudes of the old one, or a member of 
some old class-group becomes modernized. Nor is it 
merely a matter of different occupations. A professional 
who buys an estate, a city worker who buys a peasant farm, 
can hardly ever become quite intimate with any of the old 
inhabitants. All this manifests itself curiously, for example, 
with regard to the Jews. The_ Jewish boycott of the two 
years preceding the war extended only with great difficulty 
to the country populajjon^-Jbecause in many localities the 
peasant, sometimes even the old-type noble, understood 
better, and felt himself nearer to, the Jewish merchant of the 
old type than to the more honest and enlightened Polish 
merchant of the new classl But let a rich, instructed, even (/ j- 
christened, Jew, belonging essentially to the new middle fr 
class, buy an estate and he will feel incomparably more 
isolated from the Polish nobility and the Polish peasant \ \ 
than some little old crass Jewish merchant from the neigh- 
boring town. 


We shall see in our later volumes many and important 
manifestations of the class-evolution in communal and 
national life. 


The family is practically the only organized social group 
to which the peasant primarily belongs as an active member. 
Outside of the family his social milieu can be divided into 
two distinct and dissociated parts: (i) a political and social 
organization in which he does not play an active role and 
of which he does not feel a member; and (2) a community 
of which he is an active member, but which is constituted 
by a certain number of groups whose internal unity is due 
merely to actual social intercourse and to an identity of 
attitudes. This dissociation is an essential feature of the 
original peasant social life; its progressive removal, the 
constitution of organized groups of which the peasant 
becomes an active member, is the main characteristic of the 
evolution of social life which we shall study in a later volume. 

i. The complete lack of political rights until the end 
of the eighteenth century made the peasant only an object, 
not a subject, of political activity. In the process of gradual 
liberation he has acquired some political rights communal 
self-government, participation in elections. But at the 
beginning he was unprepared to use them and was always 
governed as before, and even since he has begun to partici- 
pate actively in political life this participation, except hi 
Galicia, has been limited up to the present, for the peasant 
as for the other Polish classes, by the political oppression 
of the country. The society developed some equivalent of 
an independent state-organization, as we shall see later, but 
only in German Poland is the peasant a fully active element 
of this organization, while in Russian Poland he is only on 
the way to it. And since in Russian Poland political rights 



have always been more limited than anywhere else, the old 
attitude toward the state is there preserved in the most 
typical form. This attitude can perhaps be best compared 
with the attitude toward the natural order on one hand, and 
toward the divine order on the other; it is intermediary 
between the two. The political order appears to a certain 
extent as an impersonal and a moral power, absolutely 
mysterious, whose manifestations can possibly be foreseen, 
but whose nature and laws cannot be changed by human 
interference. But this order has also another side, more 
comprehensible but more unforeseen, with some moral char- 
acter, that is, capable of being just or unjust and of be- 
ing influenced; in this respect it is the exact parallel of 
the divine world. The bearers of political power whom the 
peasant meets are men, and their executive activity can be 
directed within certain limits by gifts or supplication, or 
they can be moved to intercede before those higher ones 
whom the peasant seldom meets, who are more powerful 
and more mysterious, but still in some measure human and 
accessible. Above them all is the emperor, less human than 
divine, capable of being moved but seldom, if ever, directly 
accessible, all-powerful but not all-knowing. This whole 
system, this combination of impersonal power and half- 
religious hierarchy, evidently permits a certain explanation 
of everything, but excludes absolutely any idea of political 
activity. The peasant can accept only passively whatever 
happens and rejoice or grieve. He does not always even 
feel able to praise or to blame, for a given fact may be the 
expression of the impersonal power as well as of the person- 
alities, and even in the latter case he does not know whom 
to praise or to blame. Usually he tries to interpret every- 
thing more favorably for the higher, less favorably for the 
lower, personalities, because this always leaves some way 
out of pessimism; the higher personalities may not have 


known the situation; when they know it, they will change 
the oppressive measures or show themselves the peasant's 
benefactors. The unlimited power ascribed to the state 
and the mystery with which its leaders are surrounded in 
the peasant's imagination make him cherish often the most 
absurd hopes or give way sometimes to the most absurd 
fears. For even if the leaders are accessible to such motives 
as the peasant understands, they have besides an unlimited 
sphere of unknown motives and plans, exactly as it is with 
God. Therefore in the state as viewed by the peasant there 
is a self-contradictory combination of an impersonal regu- 
larity, incorporated in the habitual functions, and of almost 
whimsical change. Being a superhuman order, it is at the 
same time a source of unlimited possibilities. 

All this explains the traditional loyalty of the peasant 
and makes us understand at the same time in what ways this 
loyalty disappears. The first step is usually connected with 
a change of the habitual valuations. The source of evil is 
placed higher and higher, until finally, as often in Russian 
Poland, the tsar is conceived as being practically parallel 
with, and similar to, Satan. The unlimited possibilities 
included in the state become fundamentally possibilities of 
evil; the good comes only incidentally, as a consequence 
of an imperfect realization of the evil, due to the fact that 
the lower personalities in the state-hierarchy are more 
human. Their human character acquires a positive value; 
it is still weakness, but weakness in evil, resulting from an 
accessibility to the motives of ordinary interest (as in 
accepting bribes), and sometimes even to good feelings. 
Then comes the second step the development of a half- 
mystical faith that this empire of evil can be broken and a 
new and perfect organization established in its place, not 
indeed with the ordinary human forces alone, but with the 
supernatural help of God or by the half-supernatural powers 


of other states, of "the people," of "the proletariat," etc. 
This is the typical psychological path of revolution in the 
lower classes. 

The other way is that of a progressive growth of the 
peasant's positive or negative part in the state participa- 
tion in state-activities and organized struggle with the 
government within legal limits. A real understanding of 
the state-organization, sufficient for practical purposes, dis- 
solves the mystical attitudes, while at the same time the 
development of a national consciousness makes loyalty to 
an oppressive state appear as national treason. This evolu- 
tion has begun in Russian Poland and is nearly completed 
in German Poland. 

Besides the state, the two other organized social groups 
of which the peasant is a member are the commune and the 
parish. In both he was passive for a long time. Although 
the commune is based upon the principle of self-government, 
its freedom is often limited by administrative measures 
of the state, and in the beginning the peasant was hardly 
able to use his liberty even within these limits. The 
commune was in fact governed by the secretary, who knew 
the formal side of administration, and in many communes 
this situation lasts up to the present. As to the parish, the 
priest was all-powerful, not only in fact, but to a great 
extent also in form, and up to the present in many parishes 
the peasants can hardly get an account of the money which 
they give. It is not so much dishonesty on the part of the 
priests, many of whom are really disinterested, as the expres- 
sion of the principle of patriarchal government, the influence 
of the idea that any control would be harmful to the priest's 
authority. The struggle for active participation in the 
commune and the parish organization is one of the important 
points in the actual evolution of the peasant's social life, 
particularly in Russian Poland. 


Finally, the same passivity characterized the peasant's 
part in economic life. Well adapted to the old conditions 
of the local farming economy, he stood powerless, ignorant 
and isolated hi face of the great economic phenomena of 
the external world, and even in face of the small and informal 
Jewish economic organizations of the neighboring town. 
In this line his present evolution is most rapid and is particu- 
larly important in its psychological consequences. 

2. The social environment to which the peasant is 
primarily adapted, within which he is active and lives his 
everyday life, is the partly coincident primary groups the 
village, the parish, and the commune. These are here 
treated, not as organized administrative units, but as 
collectivities, loosely unified by personal interrelations 
among their members, by a certain identity of interests which 
does not as a rule give birth to common activities, by 
periodical meetings, through which the particular kind of 
solidarity developed for a short time in a mob is perpetuated 
as a psychological deposit. To this environment we must 
add the neighboring town, a part of whose inhabitants the 
peasant knows mainly through business relations, and the 
neighboring parishes and communes, whose inhabitants he 
occasionally meets at fairs and parish festivals. The 
Polish popular term corresponding to this undetermined 
environment, with which the individual or the family has 
close or remote, but always immediate, relations, is okolica, 
"the country around," both in the topographic and in the 
social sense. In the latter sense we shall use the term 

Of course the circle of the community widens with the 
facilities of communication and the frequency of social 
intercourse, but there is always a criterion which enables 
us to determine its farthest limits: It reaches as far as the 
social opinion about the individual or the family reaches. 


Social opinion is the common factor which holds the com- 
munity together, besides and above all the particularities 
which unify various parts of the community, individuals, or 
smaller groups with each other, and it is the only indispen- 
sable factor. Occasionally there may arise a local interest 
which provokes some common, more or less organized, action, 
usually of an economic nature. But this faculty of common 
action shows that the old community has already risen to a 
new level, and is again one of the marked points of the 
present social evolution of the peasant. The peasant 
community subsisted for centuries independent of common 
action and lacked any organization, even a transitory one. 

The manner in which social opinion holds the community 
together is easily analyzed. Any extraordinary occurrence 
becomes for a certain time the focus of attention 1 of all 
the members of the community, an identical attitude toward 
this is developed, and each member of the community is 
conscious that he shares the general attitude or that his 
attitude is shared by the rest of the community. These are 
the three original elements of the mechanism of social 
opinion : the phenomenon, the identity of attitude, and the 
consciousness of this identity. 

First of all, the social unity of the community depends 
upon the frequency with which social opinion has the 
opportunity to manifest itself. This is inversely pro- 
portional to the size of the group and directly proportional 
to the number of relatively important phenomena occurring 
in it. In the community the number of phenomena suffi- 
ciently important to occupy the social opinion is, of course, 
much more limited than in the parish or commune, in the 
parish more limited than in the village. But in any given 
group the number increases with the increase of the sphere 
of interests of the members. When, for example, in some 
village an agricultural association has bought a new machine, 


or a milk association has had an exceptionally large amount 
of milk, the whole community learns of it and talks about it. 
The awakening of national and political interests has the 
same effect, as many phenomena occurring within the com- 
munity assume a new importance from those points of view. 
Finally, a very important factor is added by the press. 
Through it phenomena from the external world first only 
those which have or seem to have some relation with the 
interests prevailing among the members of the community, 
then also those which arouse a purely intellectual interest 
are brought into the focus of social opinion, are talked 
about, more or less identical attitudes are developed with 
regard to them, etc. 

But with the introduction of these new phenomena, 
particularly the external ones, social opinion loses a character 
that it possessed eminently hi more primitive conditions 
its reliability. In a primary group, with steady components, 
with a form of life relatively simple and changing very 
slowly, with a close connection between its members, 
mistakes in the perception or interpretation of an interesting 
fact are relatively rare, and gossip is usually as well moti- 
vated as it can be. The peasant is a keen observer within 
the sphere of his normal environment, for good observation 
is there a condition of practical success, and he knows his 
environment well enough to interpret exactly the observed 
data. So those who start a piece of gossip are usually sure 
of their fact, and those who hear it know enough to be 
critical, to distinguish between the probable and the improb- 
able. And deliberately false gossip incurs a strong censure 
of social opinion. Of course interpretation and criticism are 
exerted from the standpoint of tradition, and nothing can 
prevent errors resulting from false traditional beliefs; 
accusations of magic are a classical example. From our 
point of view, therefore, many expressions of the peasant's 


social opinion are partly false. But they prove true as soon 
as the tradition of the peasant community is taken into 
account; for example, in normal conditions only those are 
accused of magic who really try to exert it. The error lies 
in the whole system of he1iWs r not in the interpretation of 
a particular fact from the standpoint of this system. 

But when a phenomenon of a new and hitherto unknown 
kind appears in the focus of social attention, the old-, 
mechanismjtails at once. Observation becomes incomplete, 
the fact distorted by old mental habits; interpretation is 
hazardous and real criticism impossible, because there is 
no ready criterion of the probable and improbable. And 
particularly if such a new fact occurs, and the gossip ori- 
ginates outside of the community, the disorientation of 
social opinion is complete. Aiiy absurdity may circulate 
and be generally accepted^ Of course this is due, not only 
to the impossibility of tracing the gossip to its source and 
the difficulty of verification, but also to the general mental 
attitude of the peasant who, once outside of his normal 
conditions, faces the world as an unlimited sphere of incal- 
culable possibilities. 2 

We have spoken of an identity of attitudes, developed by 
the members of a community with regard to the socially 
interesting phenomenon. In fact, this identity ifl a. n pres - 
f nnrial opinion nnrl it brrom^s more pprfprt 

when social opinion is once formed, in view of the pressure 
whichj:his exerts on the individual. Were it not for this 

1 Thus, during the emigration to Parand in 1910-12, in many eastern isolated 
communities the legend was circulated that Parand up to that time was covered 
with mist, and nobody knew of its existence. But the Virgin Mary, seeing the 
misery of Polish peasants, dispelled the mist and told them to come and settle. Or 
a variant: When the mist was raised, all the kings and emperors of the earth came 
together and drew lots to decide who should take the new land. Three times they 
drew, and always the Pope won. Then the Pope, at the instigation of the Virgin 
Mary, gave the land to the Polish peasants. 

2 See Religious Attitudes and Theoretic and Esthetic Interests. 


pressure, unanimity of social appreciation could hardly be 
attained as often as it is, in view of the frequent divergence 
of individual and familial interests in a given case. The 
main factor in establishing this uniformity and in enforcing 
it in spite of individual disagreement is tradition. The 
attitude to be taken with regard to any phenomenon of a 
definite class is predetermined by tradition, and an individual 
who took a different attitude would be a rebel against 
tradition and in this character would himself become a 
socially interesting phenomenon, an object instead of a 
subject of social opinion, and in fact an object of the 
most unfavorable criticism. But there comes eventually a 
progressive dissolution of tradition, and at the same time 
an increase in the number of phenomena which cannot be 
included in any of traditional categories, either because they 
are quite new or because the new interests which have arisen 
in the community throw a new light upon old classes of 
phenomena. And the result is a dissociation of attitudes 
within the community, a formation of opposite camps, more 
or less durable, sometimes even a struggle, usually leading 
to some crude beginnings of organization. If the divergent 
attitudes assume steady directions, if they remain divergent 
with regard to many new phenomena and thus point back 
to certain profound social changes going on within the 
community, the latter may split into two or more parties, 
which may in turn join some larger organizations. But all 
this does not mean that the community is dissolved. As 
long as the same phenomena arouse social interest, it is 
a proof that behind a diversity of, or even opposition in, 
details there is^an identity of general attitudes, and it is 
with regard to this identity that the community still 
remains one group; only its unity is weakened, because the 
stock of common traditions is poorer and the unanimity 
incomplete. A complete division of the community would 



occur only if every identity of interests disappeared, if its 
members belonged to completely different social organiza- 
tions, which would respectively absorb and satisfy all their 
social tendencies. This state of things is approximately 
realized where different nationalities live together Poles 
with Russians or Germans, miirh less so wi'tji JgwR. 1 

The third element of social opinion the consciousness 
^2f the attitudes of others is mainly kept up by all kinds of 
social meetings. While individual conversation and the 
communication of news favor the development of identical 
attitudes, its action is neither strong nor rapid enough when 
taken alone to make the social opinion self-conscious./ The 
meeting not only shortens the process of communication, 
but, thanks to the immediate influence of the group upon 
the individual, is the most powerful medium through 
which social tradition is applied to each case and an iden- 
tical attitude elaborated and enforced upon the members. 
Through frequent meetings a village can develop a certain 
(of course limited) originality of attitudes which gives it a 
particular social physiognomy. Through meetings also 
a village may be much more closely connected with some 
distant village belonging to the same parish than with a near 
one which belongs to another parish, even if individual 
intercourse with the second is more animated than with the 
first. The commune, before it became a real social organiza- 
tion, had incomparably less unity than the parish, because 
general meetings were rare and included only a part of the 
population (men farmers). The connection with people 
of other parishes and communes is mainly due to meetings 
fairs, parish festivals, etc. 

Among the more intelligent the popular press plays the 
same part as the meeting; the correspondence or the article 

1 The latter case presents this particularity, that Jewish social opinion is much 
more concerned with phenomena going on among the Poles than reciprocally 
evidently because of the economic interests of the Jews. 


permits the communication of the event and of the attitude 
toward it, and the printed word has the same influence as 
the expressed opinion of the group, because it is implicitly 
assumed to be the expression of social opinion. There are 
certainly essential differences between the meeting and the 
paper with regard to the mechanism by which social opinion 
is elaborated; the relation between the individual and the 
group is immediate in the first case, mediate in the second, 
and through the paper the individual as well as the com- 
munity enters into relation with the external world. But 
the function of the Polish popular paper, which we shall 
study in the fourth volume, can be clearly understood only 
if we take it in connection with the social opinion of the 

The nature of the influence of social opinion upon the 
individual who is its object is rather complicated. First 
of all, it seems that for the Polish peasant in general it is 
rather pleasant to be the focus of public attention, apart 
from the cause of it; even if this cause is indifferent from 
the standpoint of personal value and public attention 
involves no admiration, it still brings a pleasant excitement. 
This would explain to a great extent, for example, the usual 
vehement display of grief, even if we recognize the tradi- 
tional element in it. The excitement of departure to 
military service or to America contains certainly some of 
this pleasure; still more the excitement of return with 
anticipation of public admiration. But certainly this 
pleasure never goes so far as to neutralize the feeling of 
shame at being the object of intense public blame, as it 
sometimes does in city criminals. On the contrary, the 
negative influence of public blame in criminal matters goes 
so far that suspicion of crime, just or unjust, is one of the 
most important causes of suicide. Another intensely felt 
public disgrace is that which follows ruin and the declassing 


which accompanies it. Not less intense is the shame brought 
to a girl by the discovery of her misconduct. But if 
this misconduct consists, not in actual sexual intercourse 
(particularly if followed by the birth of a child), but in a 
far-going flirtation with many boys, the distress of incurring 
public blame is neutralized by the pleasure of having much 
success with the boys. Finally, there is one matter in which 
the peasant universally dislikes publicity in whatever form; 
it is_the matter of conjugal relations. But, generally 
speaking, the desire of showing off is a much more powerful 
factor in the peasant's behavior than the fear of shame. 
People who, by rising above, or falling below, the normal 
level of the community, have learned to disregard public 
blame still show themselves very susceptible to public 
appreciation./ The peasant's vanity does not require for 
its satisfaction explicit public praise; the general pleasure 
of attracting attention is adequate. ' It may even adjust 
itself to a moderate amount of blame, for which the peasant 
has a ready explanation: they calumniate because they 
envy. And certainly this explanation is often true. In a 
community where everybody wants more or less to be the 
object of general attention anybody who succeeds in this 
aim becomes in so far an object of envy. We may add that 
envy of notoriety is probably much stronger than envy of 
economic well-being, and success in any line is appreciated 
at least as much for the public admiration which it attracts 
as for itself. 

Behind this actual machinery of the action of public 
opinion there may perhaps still remain some profound, 
unconscious vestiges of forgotten motives, consisting in the 
belief in an immediate, useful or harmful influence of the 
appreciation expressed in words. But we have no data 
which would clearly require the use of this magical explana- 


The influence of social opinion upon the single individual 
is only one side of the question; we must also take into 
consideration its effects upon a smaller group within the 
community. Here the problem is more complicated. 

The starting-point is the internal and what we may call 
the external solidarity of every social group, in the face of 
the opinion of its social environment. The internal solidar- 
ity consists in the fact that every member feels affected by 
the opinion expressed about his group, and the group is 
affected by the opinion expressed about any one of its 
members. The external solidarity that is, the solidarity 
enforced from without is manifested in the tendency of 
every community to generalize the opinion about an individ- 
ual by applying it to the narrower social group of which this 
individual is a member, and to particularize the opinion 
about a social group by applying it to every member of this 

It is quite natural that in all matters involving social 
blame the external solidarity imposed by the environment 
is usually the condition of the internal solidarity of the 
group itself. The opinion of the environment often makes 
the group responsible for its members even if there is feeble 
unity in this group, and practically obliges it to become 
solidary, either by reacting together against the environ- 
ment or by enforcing upon every member compliance with 
the environment's demand. Thus, when in a village some 
people begin to develop a certain vice, the rest of the 
inhabitants cannot throw the responsibility upon the guilty 
members alone, for the opinion of the community will always 
accuse the whole group without discrimination. So they 
have either to interfere with the guilty members or to 
accept the judgment and make the best of it. The latter 
course is sometimes taken, and the result may be that the 
vice becomes general in the village. There are, for example, 


villages notorious for theft, drinking, card-playing, etc. 
Besides imitation, there has been in such cases also a passive 
resignation and acceptance of the vox populi, after a vain 
struggle, and a subsequent adaptation to the bad opinion. 
The priests know very well how to deal with such cases. 
When a vice is only beginning to develop in a village, they 
proclaim it publicly from the chancel and brand the whole 
village, without discrimination. In this way they get the 
collaboration of the greater part of the inhabitants in their 
struggle against the vice. But if a village has long been 
notorious for some vice, the priest proclaims publicly the 
slightest improvement in order to show the possibility of 
changing the bad name. 

The unorganized social group usually lacks, of course, 
the most efficient arms against the members who bring 
shame upon it, namely, exclusion. In some cases this is 
attempted, more or less successfully, but then the group 
organizes itself temporarily in view of this particular end. 
It is possible for the individual to disclaim solidarity with 
an ill-famed unorganized group by leaving it, but this 
again does not happen frequently, because the individual, 
supported by his narrower group, feels less strongly the 
blame of the wider community. This process of enforcing 
solidarity upon the group by the social environment is 
frequently repeated, on a larger scale, when a community 
is blamed in the newspapers for the acts of some of its 
members. We find it, also, in a somewhat different form, 
when in some intellectually isolated community on the 
ethnographical limits of Poland national solidarity is 
awakened by the blame of foreigners, for example, in German 

The contrary process, when the group acquires solidarity 
in the eyes of the larger community by enforcing its own 
claims to this solidarity, is, of course, found only in matters 


involving social praise; the group wants recognition on* 
account of the social prominence of its members, the 
individual wants recognition as member of a social prominent 
group. This is the well-known mechanism of familial, 
local, national, pride. We have to distinguish this mechan- 
ism, which is possible also in an organized group but does not 
require organization, from the other, by which the organized 
group demands recognition on account of its social function, 
as a whole; we shall meet this problem later on. 

How does the individual free himself from the influence 
of social opinion ? As we have already noted, the Polish 
peasant rids himself more easily of the dread of social blame 
than of the attraction of social praise. But, making allow- 
ance for this difference, we find that there is already in the 
prjmitive_rjeasant psychology agerm ofinderjendence of 
social opinion which, un4eii_favorable circumstances, can 
develop. We have seen that originally conjugal life 
least in part, out of the reach of public intrusion. There is, 
in general, a tendency, particularly among men, to resent 
intrusions^ of the community into f amily "matters ; this 
tendency increases usually with the~gf6Wittg Importance of 
the man within the family-group and reaches its highest 
stage in old heads of the family before their resignation. 
Besides this, the peasant frequently likes to keep secret 
all those personal matters which would not attract a particu- 
larly favorable attention of the community. And the same 
is often done under the influence of his desire for publicity; 
he likes to prepare carefully his effects in order to make them 
unexpected and as striking as possible. This aiming at 
great effects makes him often disregard or even encourage 
social blame for some tune and to some extent in order to 
make the contrast stronger; he may even be dissatisfied with 
social praise if it comes before his own chosen moment 
and spoils his effect. In this way his ambition itself teaches 


him to disregard to some extent public opinion and helps 
to find a particular pleasure in the contrast between his 
own economic, moral, intellectual value and the erroneous 
appreciation of social opinion. Back of this all the while 
is the idea that a day will come when he will show his real 
value and astonish the community. 

These psychological features make easier the real process 
of liberation, which usually comes when the peasant becomes 
a member of some group whose opinion differs more or less 
from that of the community. Sharing the views of this new 
group and feeling more or less backed by it, he learns to rise 
above the community and to disregard the traditions. This 
process is facilitated by his leaving the community, going 
to a city or to America. But it goes on also among those 
who stay within the traditional group. In fact, all the 
recent changes of the peasants' views are taking this direc- 
tion. When once a small circle of "enlightened" peasants 
is formed in a community, the further movement becomes 
much easier. The social workers in the country under- 
stand this necessity of opposing a group to the group- 
influence and always try to organize a "progressive circle," 
even the smallest one. When reading is developed, it often 
suffices for the individual to communicate by letters or by 
print with some group outside of his community in order to 
feel strong enough to oppose the prevailing opinion. Some 
popular papers have therefore organized loose associations 
of the adherents of some movement, who communicate with 
one another through the paper. But, even in the cases of 
an almost perfect liberation from the pressure of the imme- 
diate environment, there is a latent hope that some day 
the community will acknowledge the value of the new ideas 
and of their bearers. 

At present the unorganized social environment of 
the peasant is itself undergoing a profound evolution, in 


connection with a modification of the traditional class- 
hierarchy./ The constitution, the criteria, the interests of 
-public opinion, are changing very rapidly, and the reac- 
tion of the individual to the influence of this changing 
environment, without being necessarily either weakened or 
strengthened, is changing qualitatively, in connection with 

the formation of new social classes./ 



Among the Polish peasants we find three coexisting 
stages of economic development with their accompanying 
mental attitudes : (i) the survival of the old family economy, 
in which economic values are still to a large extent qualita- 
tive, not yet subordinated to the idea of quantity, and the 
dominant attitude is the interest in getting a good living, 
not the tendency to get rich; (2) the spontaneously devel- 
oped stage of individual economy, marked by a quantifi- 
cation of economic values and a corresponding tendency 
to make a fortune or to increase it; (3) the stage of co- 
operation, developing mainly under external influences, in 
which economic values and attitudes are subordinated to the 
moral point of view. / 

To be sure, these types are seldom realized in their pure 
form in concrete groups or individuals; some attitudes of a 
lower stage may persist on a higher level. . It happens that 
social individualism develops under influences other than 
economic, while the economic attitudes logically correspond- 
ing to it are not yet realized. Or the familial attitude may 

1 In addition to first-hand materials, including a report on season-emigration 
made by one of the authors at the request of the Central Agricultural Association 
of the Kingdom of Poland to the Russian Minister of Agriculture, some data from 
the following works have been used in writing this chapter: Wladyslaw Grabski, 
Materyaly w sprawie wioscianskiej; Franciszek Bujak, Zmiqca (a particularly 
important monograph of a village), and Limanowa; Jan Slomka, Pamietniki 


be kept by men or groups who in economic life adapt them- 
selves- to individualistic attitudes and valuations while their 
family-group behaves economically like an individual or a 
marriage-group. We have thus many mixed forms, some 
of which will be found in our present materials. But their 
distinctive feature is their instability; the discrepant ele- 
ments which they contain lead soon to their disappearance. 
They are interesting only as showing the way in which 
evolution goes on. 

i. In the first stage all the categories of economic life 
have a distinctly sociological character. The economic 
generalization based upon the principle of quantitative 
equivalence has not been consistently elaborated, and we 
therefore find distinctions between phenomena of this class 
which are economically meaningless but have a real social 
meaning. The same lack of quantitative generalization 
leads to another result a lack of calculation, which has 
sometimes the appearance of stupidity, but is in fact only 
an application of the sociological instead of the economic 
type of reasoning to phenomena which are social in the eyes 
of the peasant even if they are merely economic when viewed 
from the standpoint of the business man or the economist. 

There are three classes of property, none of which exactly 
corresponds to any classical definition: land, durable 
products of human activity (including farm-stock), and 
money. Natural powers and raw materials, not elaborated 
by human activity, cannot be included in any economic 
category; things which can be used only once (food, fuel, 
work animal or human) belong, as we shall see, rather to 
the class of income than to that of property, although some- 
times a distinction is made between their simple consump- 
tion and their productive use. 

In taking land property into consideration we must 
remember that for centuries the peasant was not the legal 


owner of his land, and that therefore the legal side of 
property plays up to the present a secondary role, although 
there has necessarily been a far-going adaptation to legal 
ideas since the abolition of serfdom. The difficulty of this 
adaptation is shown by the innumerable, often absurd, 
lawsuits about land, of which mainly Galicia, but also 
Russian Poland, has been- the scene. The modern legal 
categories are incommensurable with the traditional social 
forms, and therefore the peasants either try to settle land 
questions without using the legal scheme at all, or, when the 
matter is once brought before the court or even only before 
the notary, they cannot reconcile their old concepts with 
the new ones imposed by the law, and a situation which 
would be simple if viewed exclusively from the traditional 
or the legal standpoint becomes complicated and undeter- 
mined when the two standpoints are mixed. 

But the influence of serfdom upon land property ought 
not to be overestimated. It seems to have been rather 
negative than positive; it hindered the development of the 
legal side of property, but hardly developed any particular 
features. Indeed, the main characteristics of the peasant 
land property are found among the higher classes, although 
perhaps they are. more distinct in the peasant class. The 
system of serfdom has simply adapted itself to pre-existing 
forms of economic life whose ultimate origin is lost in the 

Land property is essentially familial ; the individual is its 
temporary manager. Who manages it is therefore not 
essential provided he does it well ; it may be the father, the 
oldest son, the youngest son, the son-in-law. We have seen 
that it is usual for all the members of the family to marry 
and to establish separate households, but if a member of 
the family is unlikely to marry (being a cripple, sick, or 
otherwise abnormal), or if, exceptionally, a member does 


not wish to marry, he can live with his brother or sister, 
working as much as he is able, not working if he is not able, 
but in any case getting his living and nothing but his living. 
No amount of work entitles him to anything like wages, no 
inability to work can diminish his right to be supported on 
the familial farm. The same principle is manifested in the 
attitude toward grown-up children living with their parents. 
They have the right to live away from the farm, but they 
have the obligation to work for the farm; and if, later on, 
they go to work outside, the money they earn is not their 
own, because the work which they gave for this money was 
not their own it was due to the family-farm and diverted 
from its natural destination. Of course the collateral 
branches of the family lose to some extent the connection 
with the farm, but the connection is only weakened, never 
absolutely severed. Its existence was very well manifested 
in some localities under serfdom. If a serf managed his 
farm badly, the lord could give it to someone else, but 
absolutely to the nearest possible relative who gave a suffi- 
cient guaranty of a better management. 

This familial character of the farm should not be inter- 
preted as if the family were an association holding a common 
property. The members of the family have essentially no 
economic share in the farm; they share only the social 
character of members of the group, and from this result 
their social right to be supported by the group and their 
social obligation to contribute to the existence of the group. 
The farm is the material basis of this social relation, the 
expression of the unity of the group in the economic world. 
The rights and obligations of the members with regard to it 
do not depend upon any individual claims on property, but 
upon the nearness of their social relation to the group. 
It was therefore only with the greatest difficulty that the 
idea could be accepted that the land left after the death 


of the head of the family should be treated together with 
other kinds of property as belonging hi common to the heirs 
and eventually to be divided among them. 

The first form of providing separately for the members 
of the family, other than the one who was to take the farm, 
was certainly a payment in cash or farm-stock, made during 
the life of the head of the family the member managing 
the farm. This is not the acknowledgment of their rights 
to the farm, but simply an expression of familial solidarity, 
a help, whose individualistic form is necessitated by modern 
economic conditions. With the progress of individualism 
the old principle begins to yield, and we find the first sign 
in the sometimes almost purely nominal shares which after 
the death of the head of the family the principal heir, or 
rather the new manager, has to pay to his brothers and 
sisters. Then, these shares, by which already the principal 
heir acknowledges some rights of the other heirs to the land 
as such, begin to increase, but they never become equal to 
the share of the member who holds the land. Finally 
when in rare cases the farm itself is divided (usually only 
after a premature death of the head of the family) it is 
seldom divided among all the heirs; usually most of them 
are "paid off." And we see the older generation endeavor- 
ing by all means to prevent the division. A curious strata- 
gem is, for example, the bequeathing of the farm to one son, 
and mortgaging it nominally and above its value for the 
benefit of other heirs. A legal division then becomes, of 
course, practically impossible. 

The indivisibility of the farm has nothing to do with the 
question of its territorial unity. Most of the farms are 
composed of fragments, sometimes over a hundred of them, 
disseminated over the whole area of a village neighborhood. 
And changes of territorial arrangement the exchange of 
separate fragments between neighbors or the modern 


integration of farms do not seem to have a dissolving effect 
upon the social unity of the farm. Nevertheless, not every 
farm is equally adapted to playing the part of familial 
property. A farm upon which many generations of the 
same family have worked is quite naturally associated with 
this particular family and often even bears its name, while 
a new farm is devoid of such associations. But the old 
land may lose, and the new land may assume, the function 
of familial property; the principle of indivisibility remains 
in force even if the object to which it is applied is not the 
same as before. This explains how the idea of familial 
property has been kept up in spite of colonization and 
emigration from province to province, and is still exerting its 
influence even among Polish colonists in Brazil. 

The land being thus a social rather than an economic 
value the material condition of the existence of a group as 
a whole other characters of land property can be deduced 
from this fundamental fact. 

No land communism is acceptable to the Polish peasant. 
When the Russian government colonized Siberia, constitut- 
ing villages according to the communistic principle prevail- 
ing among the Russian peasants, almost the only Polish 
colonists attracted there were factory workmen, who had 
forgotten the peasant attitude. And it is evident that 
communism would destroy the very essence of the social 
value represented by the land; the latter would cease to 
express the unique familial group. A comparison may 
illustrate this attitude : communism of land from the stand- 
point of familial property would mean something more or 
less like a communism of objects of personal use from the 
standpoint of individual property. 

Land should never be mortgaged, except to a member of 
the family. Mortgaging to a stranger, and particularly to 
an institution or government, not only involves the danger 


of losing the land, but it destroys the quality of property. 
Mortgaged land is no longer owned by the nominal proprie- 
tor. "The land is not ours, it belongs to the bank," says 
the peasant who has bought a farm with the help of a bank. 
This attitude leads to a particularly irrational behavior in 
matters of loans. The conditions on which the state bank 
lends money on land are particularly favorable. The debt 
is paid back in from forty to sixty years, and the yearly 
payment with interest is from 2 per cent to 3 per cent less 
than the interest on any average investment. The peasant 
knows this very well, but, in spite of it, as soon as he has any 
money he tries first of all to pay the mortgage. A private 
mortgage is preferred, even if the interest is higher and no 
partial payments possible. The peasant prefers above all 
a personal debt, even at high interest and for a short term. 
And this again results from the social character of the land ; 
mortgaged property becomes a purely economic category 
and loses its whole symbolical value. The situation is here 
analogous to that which we find in every profanation; the 
profaned object passes into a different class and loses its 
exceptional character of sanctity. 

Finally, land property is evidently the main condition 
of- the social standing of the family. Without land, the 
family can still keep its internal solidarity, but it cannot act 
as a unit with regard to the rest of the community; it ceases 
to count as a social power. Its members become socially 
and economically dependent upon strangers, and often 
scatter about the country or abroad; the family ceases to 
play any part in the affairs of the commune, its young 
generation can hardly be taken into account in matters of 
marriage, it cannot give large ceremonial receptions, etc. 
The greater the amount of land, the greater the possibility 
of social expression. Of course all this gradually changes on 
the higher levels of economic development. 


Land has also an exceptional value from other points of 
view as an object of work, as an object of magical rites 
and religious beliefs, and later as a basis of national cohesion. 
But all these questions will be considered in other contexts. 
The second class of property products of human activ- 
ity shows a partial, but only a partial, independence of the 
familial idea. These products are not destined for the use 
of the family as a whole, and in this sense they are individual, 
but not personal, property. Members of the family own 
them, but for every member in particular this ownership 
is, so to speak, accidental. The head of the family owns the 
farm- stock, can sell it or give it, but only as long as he is the 
manager of the farm. House furniture is owned by those 
who hold the house, but again only as long as they hold it. 
Even valuable pieces of clothing, particularly home-made, 
often passing from generation to generation, are owned 
really, but only temporarily. Things bought or made by 
the individual himself are no exception to this rule. The 
function of this class of property is precisely to complete 
the function of land property in assuring the material 
existence of the group, wherever this requires individual 
ownership, and the right of every member of the family to 
own something individually depends upon this fundamental 
aim and is determined by the position which he occupies in 
the group. The head of the family owns the farm-stock 
because this is necessary for his management of the farm, 
and he and his wife are the general distributors of these 
goods; they have to give everyone what he needs as member 
of the group. To a member who stays at home they give 
the only individual property which he needs to live clothes; 
he has no other function in the group except being a member. 
To those who marry and establish a new household the goods 
are distributed which are necessary, not only to live person- 
ally, but also to fulfil the function of householders besides 


clothes, some house and bed furniture, some farm-stock 
and farming implements. And every member of the 
family should be ready to give to any other member things 
which the other needs and which he can spare himself, taking 
the particular position of both into account. Thus, an 
unmarried member who has the opportunity to get from 
without any household or farm goods should give them to a 
married or marrying one. Dividing the inheritance means 
primitively only dividing this class of goods, for no others 
are inherited in the proper sense of the word, and the division 
is regulated by the same principle: to everyone according 
to his needs, as far as those needs result from his function 
in the family-group, not from his personal desires. And 
under no pretext should any goods of this class, as long as 
they have any value, be given away to strangers, or sold 
as long as anybody in the family needs them. 

Money is a relatively new kind of property which has 
adapted itself to the pre-existing organization and whose 
importance grows as the modern economic life penetrates 
the peasant community ahd makes that pre-existing organi- 
zation insufficient. For the peasant, money property has 
originally not the character of capital, but of an immediate 
and provisional substitute for other kinds of property. 
He does not at first even think of making money produce; 
he simply keeps it at home. And if he lends it privately, the 
mediaeval principle of no interest prevails, or at most, as 
we shall see later, a reward in money or products is taken 
for the service. Even now interest on private loans from 
peasant to peasant is very low. Putting money into the 
bank comes still later, and, last of all, using it on enterprises. 
Being a provisional substitute for other kinds of property, 
money is individualized according to its source and destina- 
tion. A sum received from selling a cow is qualitatively 
different from a sum received as dowry, and both are dif- 


ferent from a sum earned outside. The distinction goes 
still further. The money which the husband gets for the 
cow is qualitatively different from that which his wife puts 
aside by selling eggs and milk, not because either belongs 
personally to husband or wife, but because each represents 
the equivalent of a different sort of value; the first is 
property, the second is income. We shall consider the lat- 
ter presently. The qualitative difference between various 
sums of money equivalent to property was originally ex- 
pressed in the fact that they were kept separately. And 
to the difference of origin corresponded a difference of 

destination. Mpjngy rprejvpri as d" wr y rnnlH hp nspH nnly 

to buy land, and the was, of course, true of money 
received from the sale of land. Money so derived had the 
character jrfjamilifl-l property pnH it could never be diverted 
to any individual end or any enterprise, not even for a time, 
but had to wait for an opportunity to buy land. Money 
from the sale of cattle, horses, hogs, or poultry was to be 
put aside in order to meet all the individual difficulties of 
the members of the family arising from the complication 
of modern life and the beginning economic individualiza- 
tion, particularly to help newly married couples, or, later, 
to help the principal heir in " paying off" other heirs. It 
was the equivalent of the second class of property. Money 
earned outside, if it was not mere income but acquired the 
character of property, was usually assimilated to the same 
second class. But there was a general tendency to make 
money pass from a lower into a higher economic class 
from the class of income into that of property, from that 
of individually controlled into that of familial property. 
Actual economic evolution tends to abolish all these distinc- 
tions and to make money more and more fluid. But the 
tendency to individualize money was so strong that up to 
the present time a peasant who has a sum put aside for a 


determined end, and needs a little money temporarily, 
prefers to borrow it, even under very difficult conditions, 
rather than touch that sum. 

At this stage of evolution property, not income, is 
exclusively the measure of the economic situation of the 
family or the individual. And evidently it must be so, 
since the economic situation is socially important only in 
view of the social standing which it gives and since it is 
property which expresses the social side of economic life. 
A larger but badly managed farm is therefore more valued 
than a well-managed but smaller one, even if their real 
economic values are inversely proportional. And there is a 
curiously mixed attitude of envy and commiseration toward 
town people or manor employees who have an income much 
larger than the peasant, but no property. 

The concept of income itself which we use here is origi- 
nally strange to the peasant. We can apply this category to 
the yearly products of the farm, but we must remember that 
the peasant does not apply it. The products of the farm 
are not destined to be sold and not evaluated quantitatively. 
Their destination is simply to give a living to the family and 
to keep farming going on nothing more. And the original 
system of farming (one- third whiter crops, i.e., wheat and 
rye; one-third summer crops, i.e., barley, oats, potatoes, 
etc.; one- third fallow), with an average low level of agri- 
cultural practice, really does not leave much to sell from a 
farm of the average size of ten to thirty acres. Below ten 
acres a farm gives hardly enough to feed the family and the 
stock; and if the peasant cannot earn some money outside 
he must in the spring either borrow grain from a rich neigh- 
bor or sell his pig, cow, or even horse in order to get a living 
until the new harvest. And if his situation is good, he will 
think rather of increasing his stock than of selling any 
products. There are also in this case greater claims to be 


satisfied servants to be fed, old parents or collateral 
members of the family to be supported, neighbors to be 
helped, guests to be received. For, unlike the property 
which should never pass outside of the family, the farm 
income (products) has to be shared as far as possible with 
poor members of the community, guests, wanderers, beggars, 
etc. Its essence is to support human or animal life. To 
waste the smallest part of it is a sin, almost a crime. To 
sell it is not a sin, but perhaps even here we may find in the 
background of the peasant's psychology the half-conscious 
conviction that it is not quite fair. There is another way of 
using what remains after the satisfaction of the needs of the 
family and of the duties toward the community : the income 
in products can be turned into property by increasing the 
farm-stock, improving the buildings, buying new farm 
implements, all of which is property. The attitude of the 
village or commune toward pastures and forests belonging 
to it is almost the same. They are not common property 
in the real sense of the word, for the peasant does not 
consider, as we have seen, raw materials as the property of 
anyone. They are simply a source from which every 
member of the village or commune can draw materials which 
he needs in addition to the farm products in order to support 
his family, to feed his stock, and to keep up his farm build- 
ings, without getting into trouble with the law. Only with 
regard to the relation to other villages or communes these 
goods assume the secondary character of property. In this 
line there has been also an evolution during the last period. 
This attitude toward the natural products of the farm 
explains why the agricultural progress of the Polish peasant 
was so slow up to twenty or thirty years ago. There were 
no sufficient motives to increase the productivity of the 
land. The standard of living simply adapted itself to the 
natural income, and the question of increasing the farm 


equipment was hardly important enough to justify agri- 
cultural studies, harder work, more trouble in running a 
complicated system of farming, etc. If we take the passive 
clinging to tradition into account, we shall hardly wonder 
at the slowness of the progress. And precisely in the only 
case where the motive could be strong enough when the 
farm income was not sufficient to give a living to the family 
there were no resources for making improvements. 

When the general conditions began to change, the 
peasant found at first additional sources of income which 
allowed him to solve the new situations. The growth of the 
large cities, the development of the means of communica- 
tion, of national and international commerce, gave him the 
possibility of selling secondary products of his farming- 
butter, eggs, vegetables, fruit, etc. Home industry, which 
had existed from time immemorial, although it was never 
very much developed, found new markets, thanks to the 
sudden interest which it awakened in the higher classes of 
Polish society. But the main source of additional income 
was hired season-work, at first only in the neighborhood, 
hen also in more distant parts of the country and in Ger- 
many, and finally work in America. 

The first use of this income was to cover such new 
expenses as were not accounted for hi the old economy; it 
had to supply the deficiencies of the old system of living 
in the same way that money property supplied the deficiency 
of the old system of property. Taxes increased and had 
tojbe paid in cash, whereas they were formerly paid mainly 
in natural "procTucts. The multiplication of the family 
obliged the purchase, whenever possible, of new land, and 
this could be done usually only by contracting debts, on 
which interest had to be paid in cash. New needs arose 
among the members of the younger generation, needs of 
city products, city pleasures, learning; individualization 


progressed, and the older generation had to yield, sometimes 
after a hard struggle. Finally, when the products of the 
farm were not sufficient to feed the family, food began to 
be bought instead of being borrowed. This is the latest 
stage of evolution. 

But even in this evolution the principle of qualification 
of economic values held good. Every sum of money, ad- 
ditionally earned, had a particular end and could be used 
on nothing else, not even partially and temporarily. And 
there was always a tendency to let as much of it as possible 
pass from the class of income into that of property, whenever 
the sum was large enough to make a marked addition to the 
latter. If a sum was once set aside to increase in some 
particular way the property, the necessity of spending it 
on some actual need was felt as a misfortune. We have 
here the explanation of the stinginess of the peasant, which 
remains his characteristic feature even as an immigrant. 
Traditionally all the elementary needs of food, shelter, 
clothing, fuel, were satisfied by the natural products of the 
land, and there was and is still an aversion to spending 
money on them. Even when natural products were sold, 
the money was not used for living, but for other needs. We 
therefore find the seemingly paradoxical situation that an 
increase of income in cash usually means for a time a lower- 
ing of the standard of living. In localities where they find 
an easy market for their products the peasants often live 
worse than in more remote villages. But they usually 
spend more money on city pleasures and objects of luxury, 
because with regard to expenses of this kind the inhibition 
is not traditional and has to be acquired. In the same way 
the peasant in America tries to limit his living expenses even 
more than his extraordinary expenses, particularly if he 
comes directly from the country. And when he has a plan 
for the use of a sum of money which he has earned, nothing 


except final misery and the impossibility of earning or bor- 
rowing can compel him to spend this sum on his living. 

The third kind of income known at this stage of economic 
life is wages. But here again the principle is not the modern 
one. Primarily there seems to be no idea of an economic 
equivalent of the work done, of an exchange of values. 
There is rather a collaboration, entitling the collaborator to 
a living. The servant or employee, by co-operating with 
his employer, is assimilated to his family. His position is 
evidently inferior to that of his employer, because the latter 
is the manager of the property and the distributor of the 
income; but it is inferior only to that of other members 
of the employer's family in the fact that these members 
may become managers themselves. There can also be other 
reasons of inferiority. The family of the employer has 
usually a higher social standing than that of the employee. 
But when the employer is a peasant, the position of an 
employee or farm servant, a parobek, involves as such no 
social inferiority. In the case of manor servants the element 
of class-distinction enters and can never be obviated, and 
the employee's work includes also always some element of 
personal service essentially different from collaboration, and 
involving a real personal inferiority. But in this case also 
the employee is assimilated to the employer's family to the 
degree that the relation involves collaboration. To be sure, 
this assimilation resulting from collaboration led only to an 
internal solidarity of the family-group with reference to 
work and living, not to a solidarity of external reactions 
toward other family-groups. The latter solidarity is 
acquired only through a long life in common. 

The manifestation of this attitude toward dependent 
work is that the salary of the servant was always originally 
given in natural products. The single servant received his 
board and a determined or undetermined amount of clothing; 


the married servant in manors had lodging, fuel, grain (called 
ordynaryd), a field for potatoes, the permission to keep one 
or two cows, etc. in short, everything included in the 
peasant idea of living. Later on the same economic evolu- 
tion which obliged the peasant farmer to seek for an addi- 
tional income obliged the employer to pay a little money to 
his employee. But that this money is considered as only 
an addition, an equivalent for products which cannot be 
furnished, is shown by the fact that the wages in cash paid 
to manor servants amount even now on the average to only 
10 per cent of the wages in natural products. Another 
modification, parallel with the hired season- or day-work 
of the farmer's family, is the custom by which the manor 
servant keeps a boy or girl to do day-work on the manorial 
farm. Originally based on the fact that the larger children 
of a servant worked with him, the custom was made obliga- 
tory by manor-owners, who need cheap hands for light work. 
A manor servant who has no large children must therefore 
hire a boy or girl (called posylka). But here also the old 
principle is retained as far as possible; the servant receives 
for his posylka an additional remuneration in natural 
products besides the daily pay, which is therefore lower than 
that of occasional workers, and the hired posylka is treated 
by the manor servant in the same way as the parobek, the 
farm servant, by the farmer, that is, he receives his living 
and a small addition in cash. 

Naturally this situation excludes any idea and any 
possibility of changing income into property, of economizing 
for the future. As a consequence of the principle of a 
living instead of a regular wage, the servant can never 
become an owner, except by inheritance from some member 
of his family, or incidentally by marriage. The problem of 
living in old age was solved on the familial principle. A 
disabled worker was to be supported by his own family, or, 


if he had served in one place long enough to become closely 
connected with the family of his employer, the latter was 
socially obliged to support him until his death an obliga- 
tion which was always respected. 

' Another interesting consequence of this state of things 
was the type of moral regulation of the relation between 
employer and employee. The attitude required was essen- 
tially identical on both sides, in spite of the difference of posi- 
tions and spheres of activity. Its basis was "goodness," 
consisting on either side in the care for the interests and 
welfare of the other side including the families. The 
employer had to be "just," that is, to reciprocate the good- 
ness of his employee; the employee was to be "true," that 
is, to reciprocate the goodness of the employer. The moral 
regulation did not touch at all the matter of proportion 
between work and remuneration. And even now, when the 
peasant speaks of a "just" master or a "just" pay, he 
means a master who cares well for good servants, a pay 
which shows the intention of the employer to provide well 
for his employees. 

One of the reasons why the relation between work and 
wages is not taken into account is certainly the attitude of 
the Polish peasant toward work. While among handworkers 
a long tradition of guild life developed an appreciation of 
craftmanship and efficiency, or, more generally speaking, 
attracted the attention to the results of the work, the peasant 
is fundamentally interested, positively or negatively, 
principally in the process of work. Many factors collab- 
orated to develop this attitude. First of all, the com- 
pulsory work under the system of serfdom could hardly 
awaken any interest in the results. What did the serf care 
whether his work for the lord was efficient or not ? On the 
contrary, the process of compulsory work evoked a strong 
interest a negative one, of course, because of the hardship 


and loss of time which it involved, and because of its 
compulsory character. But, under continual oversight, the 
peasant had to work, willingly or not, and a certain obliga- 
tory character has been acquired in the course of time by 
the process of work as such. It was strengthened by 
religion: "Man has to work, it is his curse, but also his 
duty; the process of working is meritorious, laziness is bad, 
independent of any results." And up to the present this 
attitude is retained, even if other interests and other motives 
have been added. 

We should expect a different attitude from the peasant 
toward the work done on his own farm. But even this 
work was often half-compulsory. The peasant had to keep 
his farm in good condition in order to be able to meet his 
obligations to the lord. And even when this work was free, 
as it was sometimes even under the serfage system, another 
factor hindered the development of an appreciation of 
efficiency. The ultimate result of Jform-work does not 
depend exclusively upon the worker himself; his best^ 
efforts can be frustrated by unforeseen circumstances, ancL 
in a particularly good year even negligent work may be well 
repaid. On a rich background of religious and magical 
beliefs this incalculable element gives birth to_a particular 
kind of fatalism. It is not the proverbial oriental fatalism, 
based upon divine predestination and, if consistent, making 
work essentially an unimportant element of life, but a 
limited kind of fatalism, based upon the uncertainty of the 
fntjirp _ Thp. essential point is to get the help of God, the 
distributor of good, against the indifferent forces of nature 
and the intentionally harmful magical forces of hostile men 
and of the devil. Now, in addition to religious magic, the 
process of work itself is a means of influencing God favor- 
ably; it is even the most indispensable condition of assuring 
God's help, for without it no religious magic will do any 


good. We cannot solve here the problem, whether the 
process of work has assumed this importance only under 
the influence of the Christian ideology or whether there 
is a more primitive and fundamental religious character 
belonging to it. The fact is that when the peasant has been 
working steadily, and has fulfilled the religious and magical 
ceremonies which tradition requires, he "leaves the rest 
to God" and waits for the ultimate results to come; the 
question of more or less skill and efficiency of work has very 
little importance. The attitude is somewhat different with 
regard to work whose results are immediate carpenter's, 
blacksmith's, spinner's, weaver's work. But even here it 
is not so much the skill as the conscientiousness of work that 
counts, and the thing made "will hold if God allows it" 
an attitude very different from that of a city handworker. 

When hired work begins to develop, there gradually 
enters a new motive that of wages. But the essential 
attitude is not changed. It is for the process, not for the 
results of his work, that the servant gets his living; it is 
for the process of work that later the employee, the hired 
laborer, even the factory workman, considers himself to be 
paid. Even when later the idea of wages as remuneration 
for the results of the work is accepted, often eagerly accepted, 
it is applied less willingly to work at home than abroad. 
The most absurd explanations are given by the peasants who 
reject piece-work in Poland and ask for it in Germany; 
the irrationality of this attitude shows that its source lies 
in the old habits. 

The stress put on the process of work rather than on its 
results explains also the importance which the kind of work 
and its external conditions have for the peasant. The 
motives of pleasure and displeasure connected with this 
process are at the first stage more important than the profits. 
The main factors of pleasure are freedom, variety, facility, 


companionship. Independent work is more pleasant than 
dependent, farm-work incomparably more pleasant or 
rather less unpleasant than factory-work, and the only 
case in which the pleasure of the process of work outweighs 
always and everywhere its hardship is when all the neighbors 
come together to help one of their number to gather his 
crops. This kind of help, always disinterested, is almost 
equivalent to a pleasure party. It is becoming rare since 
the new appreciation of work for its results has developed 
and the old communal life has lost its primary character. 

Up to the present we have spoken of the economic 
attitudes which concern a single family or individual for 
even the employment relation belongs to these. We now 
pass to those which determine economic relations between 
various members of a peasant community. These relations 
may be classed under the f ollowing seven concepts : giving, 
lending for temporary use, crediting, renting, exchanging, 
selling, stealing. There is no possibility of reducing these 
to a more limited number of purely economic categories, but 
all of them are modifications of one fundamental relation 
of an occasional solidarity between the members of a com- 
munity, in the same way as all the relations between 
members of a family in matters of property are modifications 
of a permanent solidarity within the family. 

The gift is the most elementary form in which solidarity 
is expressed, because it is the simplest form of help. We 
must distinguish a real gift, when the object given has a 
material value, from a symbolical gift, when the value of the 
object is essentially moral. The real gift between strangers 
can be only an object of consumption, belonging to the 
category of income, not to that of property, because, as we 
have said, property cannot go out of the family. A symbol- 
ical gift is usually a religious object (medal, cross, image, 
wafer, scapular, etc.), sometimes an object of adornment, a 


trifle made by the person himself, etc. It is in itself prop- 
erty, but its material value is so insignificant that it does 
not diminish the stock of property of the giver and does not 
increase the wealth of the receiver. Its moral value con- 
sists hi the social attitudes which it symbolizes and which 
constitute its meaning. Now, the common meaning of all 
the symbolical gifts is that they establish between the giver 
and the receiver a spiritual bond, analogous to the familial 
bond, precisely because they formally bear the character of 
gifts reserved for the familial relation; the receiver is 
conventionally incorporated into the giver's family. In 
the case of a religious or magical object the latter has still 
another meaning in itself which heightens the moral impor- 
tance of the gift; the bond between the giver and the 
receiver is sanctified, so to speak. By gradations of the 
material value of the gift and of the sanctity which it 
imparts to the relation between the giver and the receiver 
we pass from a conventional to a real familial relation. 
Thus, the boy offers to the girl whom he intends to marry 
gifts of real value, which increase as the marriage becomes 
more probable, and the betrothal and wedding rings have a 
particularly sanctifying function, because they have been 
specially blessed for the occasion. 

If the symbolical gift establishes a new relation, the 
real gift is the result and the acknowledgment of the pre- 
existing relation of communal solidarity. It has thus a 
double function, the primitive one of help in emergency and 
the derived one of manifesting solidarity. It assumes the 
latter on particular occasions and is then ritualized. Food, 
offered at all ceremonial meetings, has certainly this char- 
acter. The ceremonial meetings occur on all the important 
familial occasions christening, betrothal, wedding, funeral 
and even on secondary ones, such as the arrival of a 
member of the family, the name-day of the head of the 


family. By inviting members of other families and offering 
them food the family manifests that it wants the event to be 
considered a social, not a private affair, and that in spite of 
any change in its life or composition it remains solidary with 
the community. Moreover, this is not a mere question of 
the good will of the family; the community requires such 
a manifestation. This explains the enormous proportions 
which all these ceremonial meetings assume with regard to 
the number of people invited, the treatment offered, and 
the time the meeting lasts. Theoretically, the whole com- 
munity ought to be invited, and the treatment must be a 
real, not a symbolical gift; that is, every guest ought to be 
really fed for a certain time, a day, two, three, originally 
often more. The motive of showing off, using the ceremonial 
entertainment as a sign of the standing of the family, has cer- 
tainly developed later on, as a consequence of the attitude 
of the community toward that manifestation of solidarity. 
But on some of those occasions the community had also 
to manifest its solidarity with the family by a real, effective 

iclp. The idea was to assist the family in procuring a 
living for a new member (at christening) or for a new 

larriage-group (at the wedding). Every person invited 
had to offer something for the child or the new couple. At 

>resent the gifts are made in money, but we have vestiges 
showing that, at least in the case of marriage, they were made 
farm products food, fuel, linen, cloth, etc. The family 

lelped the new couple mainly, though not exclusively, in 

latters of property; the community helped it to get a 
living during the first months. That those gifts were not 
intended as a reciprocity for the entertainment (as some- 
times seems the case now, when the custom has degenerated) 
is proved by the fact that no gifts were offered on other 

:casions, when there was no actual increase of the family 

it death or betrothal, for instance. 


The gift does not involve necessarily any relation of 
superiority or inferiority of the giver to the receiver. In 
the precarious conditions of peasant life everybody may 
need help occasionally. Of course non-ceremonial gifts 
are usually made by a richer to a poorer person, and the 
giver is usually superior to the receiver, but this superiority 
does not result from the fact of giving. Even habitual living 
at the expense of others, as, for example, beggary, is not 
humiliating in itself; the humiliation lies in the circum- 
stances which cause this necessity hi the loss of fortune, 
or in the lack of solidarity in the family of the beggar which 
permits him to lead such a life. The situation is different 
if the gift is one of property, because such gifts are not in 
use among peasants and anybody who accepts them from a 
stranger acknowledges thereby the class-superiority of the 

Closely connected with the gift, although never ritual- 
ized, is lending of mobile property (property of the second 
class) for a temporary use. This is a form of help quite 
obligatory hi many circumstances; and if the object is used 
immediately for purposes of living, the situation contains 
nothing essentially new in comparison with giving. But if 
the object is used for productive purposes, if, thanks to it, 
the person who borrowed it gets some income, or, in other 
terms, if the relation of the object to the purposes of living 
is indirect, then a new moment is added : the person who 
borrowed the object is morally obliged to offer a part of the 
product to the owner. Thus, for example, a horse and a 
cart borrowed in order to go on a visit, instruments borrowed 
to repair the house, lead to no obligation. But the same 
horse and cart borrowed in order to bring the crops into the 
barn, or instruments used in hired work, are considered 
productive, and the owner should get something for his good 
service. The remuneration grows with the importance of 


the results obtained (even by chance), and not with the 
importance of the sacrifice of the owner, although a marked 
deterioration of the object should be made good. The 
distinction is not very precise in detail, but the principle 
is clear. The act of lending is a social service, not an 
economic enterprise, and the remuneration is not an equiva- 
lent of any profits lost by the owner, for this loss is accounted 
for and accepted in lending as well as in giving, but an 
expression of gratitude and reciprocal help on the side of 
the person who borrowed the object proportionate to the 
increase of the resources of this person. 

The primitive attitude toward money-lending is exactly 
the same, since money is at first only the equivalent of 
mobile property. The debtor in paying the money back 
adds a certain sum, not as interest, but as reciprocation of 
social solidarity proportionate to the subjective importance 
of the service rendered. Up to the present, even after the 
introduction of interest, the custom is sometimes observed 
that, if the debtor has been particularly successful, thanks 
to the money borrowed, he will add a free gift to the 
determined interest, as a sign of benevolence toward the 

But a quite different principle prevails in the matter of 
rent. Land the first object of rent is the basis of the 
existence of the family; therefore, when it is rented, it 
ought to bring income, that is, it ought to enable the family 
to live, as when it is cultivated. And, indeed, the form 
of rent which we can consider primitive is in perfect accord- 
ance with this principle. Usually a farmer who has enough 
farm equipment rents the land of another who cannot 
cultivate it himself, either because he has not the necessary 
strength or because he cannot buy or keep the equipment. 
The products are then divided. In this way the relation of 
tenant and owner is already an exchange of services, but 


it is regulated by the idea of living. But, in general, 
renting is not primitively a frequent fact among peasants, for 
as long as familial solidarity exists and the whole family is 
not ruined or dispersed, some collateral member, assuming 
the role of head of the family, usually undertakes the 
cultivation of the land which the owner cannot cultivate. 
This was regularly the case with the land of widows and 
orphans. Renting of land for money appears as a rule only 
in the temporary absence of the owner. 

As to the rent for buildings, an evolution seems to have 
occurred. Temporary lodging in a house was originally 
equivalent to any gift of things which serve for living. It 
was involved in hospitality and was always only occasional 
among strangers, since almost everyone except beggars had 
a steady lodging, if not in his own house, then at least with 
his family, with his actual or former employer, in some cabin 
lent by the estate-owner, etc. But at the same time a barn 
or a stable could be lent on the same principle as any mobile 
property for productive purposes; that is, the person who 
used someone's barn to house his crops remunerated the 
owner by giving him a part of these crops. In short, there 
was no renting, but lending of buildings, and this was 
perfectly logical, for the buildings belonged to the class of 
mobile, manufactured property, as against land. Later 
on there developed the class of komorniks, that is, people 
who had no houses and lived from day labor, lodging in 
other people's houses, and the principle of remuneration, 
applying originally to farm buildings, was extended to 
houses and rooms permanently used. There was simul- 
taneously a process of regulation of the remuneration, about 
which we shall speak later. Finally, in some cases, when 
buildings were rented together with land, the principle of 
land rent seems to have been partly extended to them, 
although this last phase is uncertain. 


Naturally all the arrangements described above, being 
based upon social solidarity, are changed as soon as soli- 
darity begins to weaken, and many modifications in the 
peasant's economic life are due, not to the development of a 
new economic attitude, but only to this weakening of 
solidarity. The result of this process is the substitution of 
the principle of exchange for the principle of help along the 
whole line of economic relations, except hi those which have 
been ritualized. The reciprocity of help, at first undeter- 
mined as to its value and time, becomes determined in both 
respects; an equivalence of services is required. This 
means that a relation of things is substituted for a relation 
of persons, or that, more exactly, the relation of persons is 
determined by the relation of things. The solidarity within 
the primary group is a connection between concrete personal- 
ities, and every economic act, as well as every other social 
act, is merely one moment of this solidarity, one of its 
results, expressions, and factors; its full meaning does not 
lie in itself, but hi the whole personal relation which it 
involves. An act of social help therefore does not create 
an expectation of a particular and determined reciprocal 
service, but simply strengthens and actualizes the habitual 
expectation of a general attitude of benevolent solidarity 
from the other person, which may find its expression at any 
time in any act of reciprocal help. But when this concrete 
personal solidarity is weakened, the act of help assumes an 
independent importance in and of itself; the economic value 
of the service rendered becomes essential, instead of its 
social value. 

When the change begins, the expectation of reciprocity 
is justified by the amount of the sacrifice made by the giver, 
and no longer by the efficiency of the help which the receiver 
got. There must be a reciprocal service to remunerate the 
giver for this sacrifice, and it must be proportionate to the 


sacrifice itself, given at the right moment and in the right 
way. This is only an intermediary stage between social 
help and objectively determined exchange, but we find the 
corresponding attitude very frequently. Gram lent in the 
spring has to be given back with a very large interest, 
because that is the time when it is most needed by the 
creditor himself. Money is often lent on the condition that 
it will be given back whenever the creditor needs it, and the 
latter refuses to accept it at any other moment. Night and 
Sunday work is valued by the worker exceptionally highly 
because of the sacrifice which it involves; but the same man 
may do it disinterestedly when he applies to it the principle 
of solidarity and is asked for it as for a help. In selling or 
exchanging some object the peasant adds to its economic 
value the subjective value which the object has for him on 
account of personal or familial associations. And many 
other illustrations can be found. 

But of course when once the egotistic attitude is intro- 
duced into economic relations, these relations have to be 
objectively regulated. And thus ultimately the principle 
of economic equivalence of services is introduced and 
becomes fundamental, while there still remains always some 
place beside it for the old valuation based upon the efficiency 
of the help and for the transitory valuation based upon the 
subjective sacrifice. This may be said to be the actual state 
of things in the average peasant community. The objective 
equivalence of values is the usual norm, but its action is 
modified by social considerations. The principle of equiva- 
lence requires that natural products lent for living shall be 
given back at a determined time without interest, but it 
may be modified in two ways. If the debtor is in a bad 
condition and the creditor rich, the latter ought to postpone 
the payment of the debt; but if their conditions are more or 
less equal and the debt was contracted in a period of scarcity 


and paid back in a moment of abundance, an interest should 
be added which is measured by the difference of subjective 
value of the product at these moments of time, and can 
therefore be objectively very high. 

On the principle of equivalence any mobile property or 
money lent should be given back with a determined remu- 
neration, representing the resultant of the three factors: 
deterioration of the object, sacrifice of the creditor as tempo- 
rarily deprived of its use, benefit derived by the debtor. 
The remuneration is determined beforehand; but if any of 
those three factors proves different from what was expected, 
the idea of social solidarity requires a corresponding modi- 
fication of the agreement. And the idea of solidarity 
requires that if the debtor is unable to pay any debt what- 
ever in the same form in which he contracted it he shall be 
allowed to pay it, as far as possible, by working for the 
creditor. Nevertheless, this principle became a source of 
exploitation of debtors by creditors. Finally, the idea of 
exchange has modified the essence of rent; the owner now 
allows the tenant to profit from a determined quantity of 
land in return for a determined remuneration. But if a 
year proves exceptionally bad the owner should as far as 
possible remit the rent, or at least allow it to be paid the 
next year, and if the year is exceptionally good the tenant 
ought to offer the owner more than was agreed. 

Applied to work, the idea of exchange becomes the source 
of the modern principle of wages as remuneration for the 
result, although here it is particularly difficult to get away 
from the personal relation. It is therefore almost exclusively 
in hired work (day- or piece-work) and not in employment 
or service that this principle is active. 

The only case in which equivalence tends to be perfect 
is in the simple exchange of objects. The idea is that the 
objects must be really equivalent from the economic point 


of view, independent of subjective factors. To be sure, a 
person may ascribe to an object a special subjective value, 
or, on the contrary, give it voluntarily for a less valuable 
one. But neither of these attitudes has any social sanction 
attached to it. Only cheating is forbidden; the cheater 
becomes an object of social condemnation; the cheated, of 

The idea of exchange of equivalent services prepares the 
second, individualistic stage of economic life, because it 
introduces economic quantification, at least into the rela- 
tions between members of a community. Nevertheless, it 
still belongs rather to the first stage, because it can co- 
exist with a strong familial organization (it is not applied 
at first to the members of the same family) and because it 
does not harmonize with the tendency of economic advance 
which, as we shall see, characterizes the second, individual- 
istic stage of evolution. It expresses an egotistic economic 
organization of a community which rises very slowly and 
gradually, remaining still solidary in so far as it permits 
nobody to profit too much at the expense of others. No 
individual fortune can be made in such a community, and 
in fact no individual fortune is made within the peasant 
community (except by socially condemned usury); for 
this the individual must enter into relations with the external 

And this is illustrated by a curious fact. There was 
originally no commerce between members of a community, 
no buying and selling at all. It was hardly necessary in the 
primitive conditions, and it would not have been in accord- 
ance with the idea of solidarity as we have outlined it. 
Therefore the attitudes in buying and selling developed 
exclusively under the influence of and hi contact with 
people from outside Jews, foreign peddlers, town mer- 
chants. Thence the necessity and importance of the fairs, 


where almost all the buying or selling was done. And 
later, by a sort of half-conscious convention, the fair became 
a place where everybody could be treated as an outsider, and 
a money transaction could be concluded, not only with 
somebody of a different community, but even with a neigh- 
bor. It happened and may happen still that when a farmer 
has a horse which his neighbor wants to buy they both go 
to the fair, and there, after the first has pretended to wait 
for a buyer and the second to search for a horse, they meet 
and conclude the transaction. Of course neither of them 
acknowledges that he intended to make the transaction 
beforehand. Actually the custom is almost broken down, 
but the peasant still does not like to buy from or sell to his 
neighbor, because he feels morally bound by the principle 
of economic equivalence and cannot hope to do a particularly 
good piece of business. 

This development of buying or selling in exclusive 
contact with outsiders accounts for the fact that none of 
the principles dominating the economic relations within the 
community is applied to money transactions. Here we 
find the typical business tendency in its pure form: buy 
as cheap, sell as dear, as possible; no limitations of honesty, 
no personal or social considerations. But the peasant had 
to be taught this purely economic attitude. He had to 
learn, first, that goods brought to the market acquire a new 
character that of being subjected to a common quantita- 
tive standard of value, in spite of any qualitative distinctions 
which they may possess as social values within the com- 
munity. Everything can be bought from, or sold to, 
outsiders. And it was not easy to learn this. Up to the 
present many peasants do not apply the economic standard 
to some of their goods and are disgusted and offended if 
someone else does it. This happens most often with regard 
to land, but sometimes also horses or cattle which have 


been used on the farm are sold unwillingly, the peasant 
preferring to sell the young ones. As we have seen, there 
was probably an unwillingness to apply the economic point 
of view to farm products which served for living, and up to 
the present, except in localities near large cities, the peasant 
will not sell bread. There is, of course, no such limitation 
in buying, although the fact that every individual sum of 
money has a particular destination, can be used only to buy 
objects of a particular class, shows that there is still, inde- 
pendently of the question of needs, a remnant of some 
qualitative, social classification. 

After learning to apply the economic standard the 
peasant had to learn also that it is possible and desirable 
to sell very dear and to buy very cheap. This did not come 
at once either; the idea of equivalence, applied to exchange 
.within the community, hindered the development of the 
spirit of business, and in a few remote localities hinders it 
even now. The peasant will not take more nor pjyp IPSS 

Ithanhe thinln i? right; and if accidentally he makes a better 
bargain than he expected, either he reproaches himself for 
having cheated the other man or he feels gratitude toward 
him. The Jews, whose method of business is adapted to 
the average psychology of the people with whom they deal 
and is consequently traditional and often correspondent with 
disappearing attitudes, use in bargaining the appeal: 
"Do you want to wrong a poor Jew ?" This introduces at 
once the idea of equivalence and the personal element, and 
the transaction becomes assimilated to an exchange between 
members of the community. But of course the necessity 
of making such an appeal indicates the partial formation of 
the business attitude. This attitude now prevails, with few 
exceptions, in all relations with outsiders. It assumes often 
the most extreme forms. In buying, the peasant bargains 
up to the last, and he does not like to buy if he cannot 


bargain, because he wants to be persuaded that he has 
bought the cheapest possible. In selling, he often demands 
the most exorbitant prices, particularly if he has some reason 
to think that the buyer needs his goods very much. As his 
business attitude is displayed only within a limited part 
of his economic life, however, it is not systematically organ- 
ized. The quantitative side of economic value is, in his 
eyes, only one among its other qualities, brought forward 
at particular moments, among particular circumstances, 
with regard to particular people. Each act of buying or 
selling is a single, isolated action, not connected with other 
actions of the same class. The principle of cheap buying 
and dear selling is therefore not limited by any idea of the 
future, by any endeavor to get a class of steady customers. 
The peasant at this stage avoids any contracts of delivery 
which are proposed to him; he makes no calculations for a 
longer time, but tries simply to get as much as possible at 
the given moment. He will break any contract of work and 
go to another place with higher pay, even if he loses more 
in the long run than he wins. This was for many years the 
practice of season-emigrants in Germany. The number of 
contracts broken was enormous. This was due in large part 
to bad treatment, but partly also to a lack of organization 
of the business attitudes, which frequently had their first 
application to work in contact with foreigners. This whole 
situation left, of course, no place for any spirit of enterprise 
along commercial or industrial lines. 

Finally, we must take into consideration the question of 
theft, as it corroborates our previous conclusions. There is 
absolutely no theft in "taking" any raw material which is 
not in any way the product of human activity; trees, grass, 
minerals, game., fish, wild berries, and mushrooms are, as 
we^have said, everybody's property. This attitude remains 
unchanged up to the present, because of the sermtuts, 


that is, the right which the former serfs and their de- 
scendents have to use to a limited extent the forests and 
pastures of the manorial estate. "Taking" the products 
which serve to maintain the life of man or animal may be 
unfair, but unless the products are taken for sale it is not 
theft. "Taking" prepared food to satisfy immediate 
hunger is hardly even unfair, except that it would be better 
to ask for permission. When clothes are stolen and worn, 
the act is on the dividing line between "taking" and theft. 
But as soon as any product is stolen for sale, there is no 
justification; it is theft in the full sense of the word. Even 
here we find a gradation. The stealing of goods which 
belong to the class of income is incomparably less heinous 
than the stealing of farm-stock, particularly horses and cows. 
Since money draws its character from the objects for which 
it is the substitute, a condemnation of money theft varies 
with the amount stolen, simply because a small sum can 
represent only a part of the natural income, a medium one 
an object of individual property, a large one land. And 
the condemnation, on any level, increases if the proprietor 
is poor and if the thief belongs to the same community; 
it decreases if the thief is in real need and if the proprietor 
is a member of another community or, particularly, of 
another class. 1 There can be no theft between members/ 
of the same family. 

2. After the definite liberation of the peasants and their 
endowment with land their condition was at first no better, 
sometimes it was even worse, than before. They were 
indeed free of duties and charges to the lord, but had heavy 
taxes to pay; they could not rely on the lord's help in case 
of emergency and were often insufficiently prepared materi- 

1 We find often also the contrary reasoning: stealing in another village is 
worse than stealing in one's own village, because it gives rise to a bad opinion of 
the thief's village. 


ally and morally to manage their farms independently. But 
gradually they adapted themselves to the new conditions, 
and sometimes in the first generation, usually in the second 
and the third, there awoke a powerful tendency to economic 
advance, a " force which pushes you forward " as one peasant 
expresses it. This tendency, which, as we shall see, was the 
main factor breaking down the old forms and creating new 
ones, found its expression in connection with the general 
crisis which the country underwent at this epoch. The 
progress of industry opened new fields for labor, while at 
the same time the rapid growth of country population, by 
increasing the number of landless peasants, made this 
progress of industry particularly welcome. The improve- 
ment of communication drew the peasant communities out 
of their isolation and put each particular member in a direct 
and continuous relation with the external world. The 
growth of cities and the increase of international commerce 
introduced more money even into the most distant com- 
munities and helped to disseminate the quantification of 
economic values and the business attitude. Emigration 
opened new horizons, made the peasant acquainted with 
higher standards of work, of wages, of living. The evolution 
of the class-hierarchy, while to a certain extent conditioned 
by the economic evolution, influenced it in turn, because the 
new system gave a new motive for economic advance by 
opening the way to social ambition. Finally, instruction 
was popularized and helped to a better understanding of 
the natural and social environment. 

About half a century was required for the full develop- 
ment of the attitudes involved in the tendency to economic 
advance, and even now they are neither universal nor 
perfectly consistent. This is quite as we should expect, for 
the tendency to advance took at first the line of least 
resistance; the climbing individual either adapted himself 


to the traditional conditions and morals of his immediate 
environment or simply moved to another environment where 
he found conditions awaiting him which required no particu- 
lar adjustment. Only gradually the more independent 
forms of advance could appear the effort to modify the 
old environment or to climb within the new environment. 

Land-hunger and emigration are the phenomena corre- 
sponding to the lower forms of economic advance, while the 
higher forms are expressed in agricultural, industrial, and 
commercial enterprise at home and in the active adaptation 
to a higher milieu in towns and abroad. For those who 
remain in the community, increasing or acquiring property 
in land is the form of advance, satisfying at once the tradi- 
tional idea of fortune, the desire of social standing, and, to a 
smaller extent, the desire for a better standard of living. 
The first two factors are fundamental. The proportions 
which land-hunger assumed in the second half of the last 
century are the best proof of the power of the new tendency 
to advance. But at the same time the lack of economic 
calculation in buying land proves that the old attitudes 
remain in force at least with regard to the qualitative 
character of land property. In the consciousness of the 
peasant who pays absurd prices for a piece of land there is no 
equivalence possible between land and any other economic 
value; they are incommensurable with each other. Land 
is a. unique value, and no sum of money can be too large to 
pay for it; if there is bargaining and hesitation, it is only 
because the buyer hopes to get elsewhere or at another 
moment more land for the same money, not because he 
would rather turn the money to something else. And if 
later the interest on his capital is hardly i per cent to 2 per 
cent, he does not complain if only his general income, that 
is, the interest and his work, is sufficient to give him a living. 
He does not count his work, or rather he does not dissociate 



the interest on his capital and the product of his work, 
because his work is due to the land, and he is glad that he 
can work on his own land, not elsewhere. How strong and 
one-sided the land-hunger can be is proved by some examples 
of emigration to Brazil. Peasants who had twenty morgs 
of cultivated land sold it and emigrated, because they were 
to get there, at a cheap price, forty morgs of land, although 
not cultivated. So the mere difference of size between their 
actual and their future farm was a sufficient motive to 
overcome the attachment to their country and the fear of 
the unknown, to lead them to undertake a journey of two 
months and incalculable hardship afterward. This was the 
attitude of many a rich farmer, while the poor and landless 
naturally looked upon this opportunity to get land as an 
undreamed-of piece of luck. There was a real fever of 
emigration. [Whole villages moved at once, and this 
emigration, in 1911-12, was centered in the most isolated 
and backward part of the country 7[ in the eastern parts of 
the provinces of Siedlce and Lublin, and precisely where 
the tendency to advance had still the elementary form of 

A phenomenon essentially different from this emigration 
of colonists with their families in search of land is the 
emigration of single individuals in search of work. We 
shall speak of it in detail later on. Here we mention it only 
in connection with the tendency to economic advance. Of 
course there are many in the community and their number 
increases every year who cannot hope to advance if they 
stay in the country. Most of them, indeed, can live as 
hired laborers, servants, or proprietors of small pieces of 
land, and earning some money in addition by outside work. 
Their living is on the average even better than that of their 
fathers and grandfathers under similar conditions, but they 
are no longer satisfied with such an existence; they want a 


better future, "if not for ourselves, at least for our children," 
as they express it. This is the essential change of attitude 
which accounts for the simultaneous appearance and enor- 
mous development both of emigration and of land-hunger. 
Moreover, emigration to cities, from this standpoint, 
belongs to the same category as emigration abroad. When 
a peasant emigrates, it is usually with the desire to earn 
ready money and return home and buy land. He goes where 
he can find a ready market for work involving no technical 
or intellectual preparation, and he is at first satisfied with 
the wages he can secure for his unskilled labor. Astonish- 
ment and regret are often expressed that the peasant shows 
no decided inclination to become a farmer in America, but 
undertakes in mines, on railroads, and in steel works forms 
of labor to which he is totally unaccustomed. But it will be 
found that the peasant has selected precisely the work which 
suits his purpose, namely, a quick and sure accumulation 
of cash. 

Usually it is the second generation which begins to rise 
above the economic level of the parents by other means than 
the accumulation of land, for at a certain point this means 
ceases to be effective. The increase of landed property 
is always limited by the contrary process of division among 
the children, and there are already many localities where no 
land can be bought at all owing to the fact that the larger 
estates have already been parceled. Under these circum- 
stances the only remaining possibility of advance lies along 
the other line increase of income through skilful farming 
and through industrial and commercial under takings. 
A notable progress has already been accomplished along the 
first line. As a typical example, four sons divided among 
themselves their father's land, and now each of them has 
more income from his portion than the father had from the 
whole. Industrial undertakings develop more slowly. Thf 


most important are mills, brick factories, the production 
of butter and cheese. The development of commerce is 
still slower. It is largely limited to trade in hogs, poultry, 
and fruit, and to petty shopkeeping in villages. 

Among those who have left the country the second 
generation tends to higher wages, better instruction, and 
usually tries to rise above the ordinary working-class. The 
new milieu usually gives more opportunity, but requires 
more personal effort in order to rise, and it is therefore here 
that we find the greatest changes of attitudes. 

Finally, education and imitation tend to create in the 
country another form of economic progress. The parents 
who cannot give their children land try to prepare them for 
higher positions by giving them a general and technical 
instruction instead of sending them to industrial centers, to 
Germany or America, as unskilled laborers. 

During this evolution the economic attitudes become 
gradually adapted to the fundamental problem of economic 
advance. The result of this adaptation is that they cease to 
be social and become almost purely economic; they quantify 
all the material values and tend to increase the quantity. 
The economically progressive individual becomes approx- 
imately the classical " economic man " ; that is, the economic 
side of his life is almost completely detached from the social 
side and systematized in itself, even if it continues to react 
to social influences. Or, in more exact terms, the general 
tendency to advance in the material conditions of existence 
effects in the peasant an analysis of his social life, and the 
result of this analysis is the constitution of a systematic body 
of new attitudes, social in their ultimate nature, but concern- 
ing merely material values and viewed with regard to the 
greatest possible increase of their enjoyment by the subject. 

The evolution of property in this direction shows two 
phases: individualization and capitalization. As soon as 


the problem of advance takes the place of the problem of 
living, the role of the individual in matters of property 
increases more and more at the cost of the family. When 
a certain amount of property was assumed and the question 
was merely how to live from it, the individual had no claim 
to the property at all; it was there beforehand, he was not 
concerned in any way with its origin and essence, but only 
with its exploitation. The basis of his existence was in the 
group, and he -could only help to maintain this basis. But 
the situation was totally changed when he became an active 
factor in the modification of this basis. To be sure, to a 
certain extent even here the family could act as a unit 
without distinguishing the part played by individuals in 
this modification. The property often increased under the 
familial regime, and up to the present we find many examples 
of families behaving with solidarity hi matters of advance 
as they behaved formerly in matters of living. But the 
tendency to advance has necessarily a dissociating element 
which the old type of solidarity cannot resist very long; 
only in modern co-operation has the problem of harmonizing 
economic advance and social solidarity been solved, as we 
shall see in a later volume. On the one hand, the part 
played by individual members of the family in the increase 
of property was not equal, and, when the social and moral 
side of familial solidarity began to weaken, those who were 
the most efficient began to feel the familial communism as 
an injustice. Still more important is the fact that the 
family as a whole could advance only slowly, and the prog- 
ress made by one generation was followed by a regression 
in the next generation when the number of marriage-groups 
increased. Consequently the members in whom the tend- 
ency to advance was particularly strong and impatient 
began to consider the family group as no longer a help but 
a burden. And even those who, as heads of the family, 


represented the familial principle assumed when they were 
particularly efficient an attitude of despotism which was in 
itself a step toward individualization and provoked also 
individualistic reactions from other members of the group. 
The more intense the desire to advance and the more rapid 
the progress itself, the more difficult it was to retain the 
familial form of property. The individuals began by claim- 
ing the products of their own activity; then the principle of 
individual ownership became extended to the hereditary 
familial land, and the last stage of this evolution is the 
quantitative division of the whole property land, farm- 
stock, house furniture, and money among individual 
members of the family. The only vestige of the old solidar- 
ity in such cases is the desire to keep the land, even if di- 
vided, as far as possible in the family. The same members, 
therefore, never receive cash and land, but these are appor- 
tioned separately, and there remains a tendency to favor 
those who take the land, in order to preserve this as far as 
possible intact. But this is only one side of the process. 
The familial property was the highest form of economic 
value, the ultimate aim of any economic change. Other 
forms of property could pass into it, but it could not pass 
into them. And property in general was an incomparably 
higher economic category than income; it was an end in 
itself, and its use as a means of existence was a secondary 
matter. It resulted from the nature of property that it 
could be used as a basis of living, but its value did not 
consist merely in the living which could be got out of it; 
the living was always an individual matter, while property 
corresponded to the group. The fact that the idea of 
property could never be subordinated to the idea of income 
made impossible the treatment of property as productive 
capital. All this was changed as soon as property became 
individual, but even then, indeed, its nature was not 


completely exhausted by its being the source of an income, 
since it continued to stretch by heredity over more than one 
generation. Still this became its essential character and 
led to a revaluation of the various forms of property upon 
a new basis. The new valuation of every particular form of 
property on the basis of its productivity, of the amount and 
durability of the income which it brings, has two results: 
it gives a common measure of all the various forms of prop- 
erty, in spite of their qualitative differences, and it gives a 
greater fluidity to all forms of property makes the change 
of one form into another relatively frequent and easy. The 
peasant hi the country seldom reaches this complete capital- 
ization of property, but he approaches it more and more. 
He already begins to think of individual fortune in terms of 
money, without enumerating separately land, farm-stock, 
money, and objects of private use; he compares goods with 
regard to their productivity, tries to increase this productiv- 
ity by selling and buying, tries to change less productive 
for more productive goods of the same class (land for land, 
farm-stock for farm-stock), puts, not only his work, but 
also his money, in improvements, even such as require long 
waiting for the results. /^But even the most advanced 
peasant will not yet sell his land hi order to start with this 
money a more productive business of a different nature unless 
he is already settled hi a city or abroad, particularly in 
America. He will resign all property, sell his land, and 
emigrate in order to live elsewhere as a hired workman if his 
farm is too small to keep him and his family, but he seldom 
tries to exchange land for something else. The economic 
equivalence of land and other forms of property is not yet 
fully established. 

The attitude with regard to income is undergoing a 
somewhat similar evolution. The individual effort to 
raise the income makes of this also an individual matter; 



nobody has any longer the right to claim a part in its enjoy- 
ment, neither the community nor even the family. At the 
same time the qualitative distinctions between various sorts 
of income become meaningless under the influence of a new 
idea which we may term the standard of living. In a 
certain narrow sense the idea was not totally absent from 
the old economy. There was a social standard of living, 
adapted to the average economic level of the community 
and modified in each particular case with regard to the 
fortune of the family. There was in matters of food, 
clothing, lodging, and receptions a certain norm, and each 
family limited its scale of living both below and above, 
permitted it to be neither too modest nor too fastidious. 
The standard of living in the modern peasant economy, 
however, is very different. First, it is personal; the individ- 
ual sets it himself, and he does not like any prescription of 
norms in this respect from either community or family. 
Again, it is virtual rather than actual; its essence lies in 
the power which the individual has over his economic 
environment by virtue of his income. Moreover, this power 
must express itself; but its expression is free, there is no 
particular line along which the income has to be spent. It 
may be spent mainly in acquiring property, or in acts of 
generosity, or in good eating, fine dressing, and lodging, 
or in amusements, or in all these together. The ways of 
spending may be varied as much as the individual pleases; 
stinginess along some lines may be equilibrated by lavishness 
along others. And, finally, the standard of living so con- 
ceived always concerns the future, not the present, because 
its meaning lies more in the possibility of spending than in 
spending itself; the individual sets a standard of what he 
can and will do. Such a standard therefore involves 
advance. The individual usually takes into account any 
foreseen increase of his economic power. The economic 


standard of life becomes thus an economic ideal of life. 
And of necessity the relative fluidity of this standard, the 
postulated possibility of passing from one expression of 
power to another, requires the translation of every form of 
income into terms of money. 

This attitude has been particularly developed among 
Polish immigrants in America, but it exists also in Poland 
among those who have succeeded in rising above the 
economic level of the preceding generation. It often 
becomes one of the sources of the general feeling of self- 
importance typical of successful climbers, and is one of 
which we find many examples in the present materials. It 
has an important influence upon various social attitudes, 
particularly in matters of marriage and in relations with the 
family and the community. We shall point out these 
consequences presently. 

As increase of fortune and income is mainly effected 
through individual work, the attitude toward work becomes 
also essentially changed. Work was always a necessary 
condition of living, but living was not unequivocally deter- 
mined by work; there were other factors complicating the 
relation good or bad will of men, God's help, and the 
devil's harmful activity. And even when occasionally, as 
in hired daily labor, the relation between work and living 
was simple, the process, not the result of work, was regu- 
lated by it, and the duration and intensity of this process 
were limited by the actual needs of which the peasant was 
conscious; he worked only in order to satisfy a determined 
want. The search for better work which we find at a later 
period was at first merely an endeavor to get more pay for 
the same limited amount of activity. But all this was 
changed when advance, instead of living, became the end 
of work. There are no predetermined and steady limits 
of advance. In the tendency to rise the needs grow con- 



tinually. The peasant begins to search, not only for the 
best possible remuneration for a given amount of work, but 
for the opportunity to do as much work as possible. No 
efforts are spared, no sacrifice is too great, when the abso- 
lute amount of income can be increased. The peasant at 
this stage is therefore so eager to get piece-work. It is 
well known in Germany that good Polish workers can be 
secured only if a large proportion of piece-work is offered 
them. And during the period when piece-work lasts 
(harvesting) the peasants often sleep and eat in the field, 
and work from sixteen to twenty hours a day. And as 
wages in Germany are about 50 per cent higher than at home, 
all the best workers prefer to go there rather than work on 
a Polish estate, though the work is much harder and treat- 
ment worse. They take the hardship and bad treatment 
into account, but accept them as an inevitable condition 
of higher income. When they come back, they take an 
absolute rest for two or three months and are not to be 
moved to do the slightest work, proving that work is still 
highly undesirable in itself and desirable only for the income 
which it brings. Another consequence of this new attitude 
is that instead of changing work if there is a slightest hope 
of immediate improvement, and without regard to ,the 
future (as expressed in contract-breaking and wandering 
from place to place), the peasant now begins to appreciate 
more and more the importance of a steady job, particularly 
in America. 

But the evolution does not end here. When the relation 
of the results of work to wages has been once established 
through the medium of piece-work, a further step brings to 
the attention the difference of results and of wages between 
skilled and unskilled labor. The mere increase of the 
quantity of work proves more limited and less effective than 
the improvement of quality. While this difference was 


abstractly known before, it acquires now a concrete, practical 
importance, since social evolution has opened new possibil- 
ities for the unskilled worker to pass into the skilled class, 
and the tendency to advance becomes sufficiently strong 
to overcome the old passivity and lack of initiative of the 
peasant. The problem of skilful and efficient work therefore 
begins to dominate the situation. At first the skill is valued 
only with regard to the income which it brings; but slowly 
and unconsciously the standpoint is shifted, and finally the 
skilled or half-skilled workman attains the level of the old 
guild hand-worker, is able to evaluate the results of his work 
and to be proud of his skill even without immediate refer- 
ence to the remuneration. This reference changes its 
character. The question of earning a certain amount for 
some particular piece of work becomes secondary as com- 
pared with the general earning power of the individual. The 
ultimate level reached here is parallel with that which we 
found at the culmination of progress in matters of income. 
There the tendency to rise expressed itself finally in an ideal 
incorporating the highest possible buying power at a given 
stage. Here an increase in the general earning power is 
the object, and it finds its expression in a corresponding ideal 
which gives direction to the efforts to acquire a higher 
technical ability. Necessarily, these two ideals are closely 
connected, and we should expect that finally the question of 
buying-power would become secondary to that of earning- 
power; but the peasant does not seem to have reached this 
stage of systematization of he economic attitudes except 
in a few cases in America. jThe attitude of perfect security I 
and independence with regard to the actual income can be 
acquired only by a man who has the consciousness of his 
own earning-power along the line of independent business 
and who is, moreover, not limited to a single specialty. But 
the Polish peasant, in the great majority of cases, had not 


had time enough to develop the spirit of initiative and the 
rapid adaptability which characterize, for example, the 
native American. This explains, among other facts, why 
no Polish peasant has succeeded up to the present in making 
a really big fortune, either in America or at home. The fear 
of failure, resulting from a feeling of insufficient adaptation 
to the complexity of modern economic life, necessarily 
hinders the undertaking of great enterprises./ 

The economic attitudes expressed in the relations to 
other men undergo a parallel evolution. The economic 
importance of the family and the community diminishes 
very rapidly as the relations of the individual with the 
external world become more various and durable. It may 
happen indeed that an individual who in his habitual 
economic life is almost a modern business man still behaves 
occasionally in the traditional way in his relations with some 
member of the traditional groups. But this occurs only 
if those relations are few and rare and if the old attitudes do 
not hinder the individual's advance. Thus, for example, 
an emigrant who has been for many years in America and 
has become relatively rich will occasionally show an unex- 
pected generosity toward some poor relative, often even 
without regard to the degree of familial connection which 
is of course quite contrary to tradition. And it is quite 
typical that a peasant settled in a city or abroad will receive 
his fellow-countryman with particular hospitality, and when 
he visits for a short time his native village will treat all of 
his old friends and acquaintances in an ostentatious way. 
This occasional display of the old attitudes has in it, of 
course, much of showing off. The attitudes of solidarity 
may be in reality very weak, but they get strength from the 
desire to manifest the importance of the individual's own 
personality in a way which is sure to bring recognition in his 
old milieu. 


But if the individual still lives among his family or in 
his community, the old economic attitudes are dropped as 
hindering advance. Usually the attitudes which were 
formerly applied to the community are now transferred to 
the family. The obligation of help is acknowledged only in 
matters of living, not of property, and to a limited extent. 
For example, a member of the family can enjoy the hospital- 
ity of another member, but only for a time not exceeding a 
few months, or varying in individual cases. After that 
time he has to pay for his living. In matters of property the 
attitude of help may still exist in the form of lending, but 
not of gift. The dominant principle is that of exchange of 
equivalent goods. The attitude formerly employed toward 
strangers may be extended in some measure to the com- 
munity, though a real exploitation of the members of the 
community, as in the not infrequent case of usury, is con- 
demned. Even the ritualized attitudes for example, 
ceremonial receptions and gifts, do not escape the influence 
of the general egotism; reciprocity begins to be expected 
and lack of reciprocity provokes contempt. Only in 
matters of marriage does the new evolution lead to a greater 
disinterestedness, because the possibilities of individual 
advance make marriages without dowry possible, and 
because the marriage-group, isolated from both families, 
behaves in economic matters as a single individual. 

The new attitudes are thus to be sought hi the in- 
dividual's relation to the world outside of his community, 
which is now his real economic milieu. Here the dominant 
feature of economic advance is, as we have seen, a progres- 
sive adaptation to a higher and more complex economic 
organization, and every economic act takes the form of 
business; it is an investment with the expectation of a 
profit. The individual always wants to get from others 
more than he gives. In this way his behavior corresponds 



to the classical economic type. His business acts are 
organized with regard to the future and constitute a prac- 
tical system, a life-business. And as far as the individual 
meets others who have aims which interfere with his own, 
competition arises. The business attitudes are too well 
known to require analysis here. The point is that they did 
not exist at the beginning in the peasant's economic life, 
but appeared as the result of a long and complicated evolu- 

3. In the second half of the past century, particularly 
after tha unsuccessful revolution of 1863, there originated 
among the intelligent classes of the three parts of Poland 
a movement to enlighten and to organize the peasants in 
order to prepare them for a future participation in some new 
effort to recover national independence. The movement 
began in a different way in each part of Poland. In Galicia 
the starting-point was political organization, in Posen 
economic organization, in Russian Poland instruction. 
But gradually the problem of organization along all lines 
of social activity assumed an importance by itself, not alone 
with regard to a future revolution; and as the advance of 
modern militarism proved more and more the hopelessness 
of any endeavor to recover independence by arms, the idea 
of a national revolution almost lost its hold except in con- 
nection with the idea of social revolution or a European war. 
At present the social organization of the peasants is imme- 
diately connected with the problem of constituting a strong 
national unity of the social type as a substitute for national 
unity of the political type (the state), and economic organi- 
zation is the most important part of this problem. All the 
traditional and modern economic attitudes, solidarity as 
well as individualism, are used to construct a new form of 
economic life based on co-operation. There is an imitation, 
of course, of the western peasant associations and labor 


organizations, and the most self-conscious tendency in this 
line has been the importation of the English form of co- 
operation, but the whole movement has an original character 
through its connection with certain traditional attitudes on 
one hand and with the national ideal on the other. We shall 
study this movement in detail in our fourth volume. 

The economic evolution of the Polish peasant gives us 
thus an exceptional opportunity to study the process of 
development of economic rationalism, since, in consequence 
of particular circumstances, the process has been very rapid, 
and all of its stages coexist at the present moment, as 
vestiges, as actual reality, or as the beginning of the future. 
We see that in the first stage economic life was completely 
subordinated to, and indissolubly connected with, social 
organization, that any methodological abstraction which 
constructs a system of economic attitudes as isolated from 
other social attitudes, and any theory which tries to deduce 
social organization from economic life, must fail. Then out 
of this first stage we see a new state of things developing 
a historical status which corresponds practically with the 
classical economic theory. The economic life becomes 
abstracted in fact from the rest of social life; economic 
attitudes are elaborated which can be of themselves motives 
of human behavior. These are connected among them- 
selves so as to constitute a rational practical system which 
is isolated in the consciousness of the individual from other 
spheres of interest, although occasionally interfering with 
them. But this is not a general law of economic life, only a 
particular historical status, due to the appearance of the 
tendency to economic advance. Finally, the third status, 
as we shall see in detail later on, realizes historically, in 
part, the socialistic doctrine of dependence of social organi- 
zation upon economic life. The economic organization 


becomes in fact one of the fundamental conditions of a 
social organization, of the social national unity. But this 
is effected only through particular historical conditions and 
under the influence of particular social and moral ideals. 

We do not assert that the evolution of the Polish peasant 
gives us a general law of economic evolution. It did not go 
on independently of external influences, and the action of 
those influences cannot as yet be methodologically excluded. 
A study of other societies in different conditions is indispen- 
sable, because only by comparison will it be possible to 
determine what in the process of economic evolution of the 
Polish peasant is fundamental and what accidental. 


The religious and magical life of the Polish peasant 
contains elements of various origin. There is still the old 
pagan background, about which we know very little and 
which was probably itself not completely homogeneous; 
there is Christianity, introduced in the tenth century, and 
gradually disseminated, partly absorbing, partly absorbed 
by, the old stock of beliefs; there are some other oriental 
elements, brought later by the Jews, the gipsies, infiltrated 
from Russia, Turkey, etc.; there are German elements, 
brought by the colonists; finally, much is due to the gradual 
popularization of the contents of classical literature and of 
mediaeval learning. It would be an impossible and useless 

1 In the following volumes we do not give a particular place to magic and religion 
as concrete data, partly because they do not possess for us relatively so great an 
importance, and partly because this is a field in which the data of peasant 
experience have been collected on a relatively complete and extensive scale 
though these data have never been given a systematic sociological treatment. 
But on this account we offer here a relatively full treatment of the magical and 
religious elements in order to establish their proper importance in the peasant's 
scheme of attitudes and values. We have drawn freely as to details (but not as 
to theory) from Oskar Kolberg's great work, Lud ["The People"], and from 
the ethnographical materials published by the Cracow Academy of Sciences 
(Mater yaly antropologiczno-archeologiczne i etnograficzne) . 


undertaking to attempt a historical analysis of this complex. 
What we seek at this point is a determination of the funda- 
mental attitudes shown by the peasant in his religious and 
magical life, aside from the question of the origin of these 
attitudes and of the beliefs and rites hi which they express 
themselves. And of these we find four partially independent 
types: (i) gpnpraj am'rriation of natural objects^, but no 
spirits distinct from the objects themselves; solidarity of 
life in nature; no distinction possible between religion and 
magic; (2) belief in a world of spirits, partly useful, partly 
harmful, and distinct from natural objects; the beliefs are 
religious, the practice is magical; (3) absolute distinction 
of good and evil spirits; the relation with the good spirits 
is religious and expressed in social ceremonies, the relation 
with bad spirits is magical and established individually. 
(4) TntrnHiirtirm r>f mysticism, tendency to self -perfection 
ancLsalvation; personal relation with the divinity. 

Although it is possible that these^Types of attitude 
represent as many necessary stages hi the development of 
religious life, this cannot be affirmed with certainty without 
comparative studies. And in a concrete religion like Cathol- 
icism we naturally find mixed elements representing various 
stages of religious evolution, and a concrete group or 
individual shows a combination, often a very illogical one, 
of attitudes belonging to various types. 

i. All the natural beings animals, plants, minerals, the 
heavenly bodies, and the earth are objects of the peasant's 
interest and sympathy. His motives are not consciously 
utilitarian, although, as we shall see, natural objects are 
always in some way related to the man's life and welfare. 
We may perhaps assume that it is this general interest which 
causes the man to invent a direct utilitarian connection 
between himself and some natural object (a connection 
which in fact does not exist) when he wishes to justify his 


interest rationally. 1 This point will become clearer when 
we determine the essence of the relation between man and 

But the fact that natural objects are related to man's 
welfare at all distinguishes this interest from the purely 
aesthetic one whose origin we shall analyze elsewhere. The 
common feature in both is the tendency to individualize. 
The individualization goes far. Not only all the domestic 
animals, but even the wild ones, are always, as far as possible, 
identified, which act sometimes (with domestic animals 
always) expresses itself in name-giving. Every tree, every 
large stone, every pit, meadow, field, has an individuality 
of its own and often a name. The same tendency shows 
itself in the individualization, often even anthropomorphiza- 
tion, of periods of time. At^leaj^onejjhird of the daYS_Qf 
tire year are individually distinguished^ and the peasant 
never uses numbers for these dates, but always individual 
names. The Christian consecration of every day to a 
saint is very helpful in this respect, and the peasant usually 
substitutes (for example, in his innumerable proverbs) the 
saint for the day. 2 Tales in which months or days are 
anthropomorphized are frequent. The anthropomorphiza- 
tion itself is not serious, but it is a sign of the tendency to 
individualization. Thanks to this tendency, time becomes a 
part of nature, and individualized periods of time become 
natural objects. There is little trace of an analogous 
individualization of space, except the usual distinction of 
the six cardinal directions objective: east, west, south, 

. I It is forbidden, for example, to touch a swallow*s nest or even to observe the 
swallow too persistently when it is flying in and out of it. The rationalistic justi- 
fication of this attitude is that the swallow may become angry and drop her excre- 
ment into the man's eye, causing blindness. 

3 For example: "When St. Martin comes upon a white horse, the winter will 
be sharp." Or: "St. Matthew either destroys the winter or makes it wealthy." 
Or: "If Johnny begins to cry and God's Mother does not calm him, he will cry till 
St. Ursula." 


north, up, down; subjective: right, left, before, behind, 
up, down. 

When individualization is impossible, as, for example, 
with regard to many wild animal species, there is at least 
a tendency to invent an imaginary individual which becomes 
then the representative and the head of the whole species. 
Thus we find everywhere the legend of a king of the serpents, 
whose crown in some tales a peasant succeeds in stealing; 
the wolves, deer, boars, hawks, owls, etc., have particularly 
old and powerful individuals whom they obey; in many tales 
there appear various individual animals and birds endowed 
with exceptional qualities and knowledge to whom their 
species has to listen, and even if in some cases these animals 
prove to be metamorphosed men, this is not essential at all, 
and even such changes, as we shall see, can be explained 
without any appeal to extra- or supra-natural powers. 

For the interesting point hi all this individualization of 
natural objects is that, while there are no spirits in or behind 
the objects, the latter are always animated, often conscious 
and even reasonable. To be sure, we find also spirits 
attached to objects in the peasant's belief, but these cases 
belong to a quite different religious system. In the system 
we are now considering we find only living beings whose life 
is not at all distinguished from its material manifestation 
no opposition of spirit and body. The animals, the plants, 
the heavenly bodies, the earth, the water, the fire, all of 
them live and all of them think and know in varying 
degrees. Even individualized fields and meadows, even 
days and times of the year, have some kind of independent 
existence, life, and knowledge. The same characters belong 
in various degrees to manufactured objects and to words. 
In short, anything which is thought as individually existent 
is at the same time animated and endowed with some 
consciousness; the "animated and conscious thing" seems 


to be a category of the peasant's thinking in the same sense 
that the mere "thing" or "substance" is a category of 
scientific reasoning. Or, more exactly, when a scientist 
isolates an object in thought in order to study it, his act is 
purely formal; the object does not (or rather, it should not) 
acquire in the eyes of the scientist any new property by being 
thought, except that of becoming the subject of a judgment. 
But the peasant, at least at the stage of intellectual culture 
which we study here in its vestiges, cannot isolate an object 
in thought without ascribing to it (unintentionally, of course) 
an independent existence as an animated and more or less 
conscious being. 

We find innumerable examples of this attitude. If we 
take only one manifestation of nature's consciousness her 
conscious reaction to man's activity we see that up to the 
highest forms of animal life and down to the manufactured 
thing or to the animated abstraction of a time-period man's 
action is understood and intentionally reacted upon. An 
animal not only feels gratitude for good treatment and 
indignation at bad treatment, not only tries to reward or 
to avenge, but even understands human motives and takes 
them into account. This is not only shown in all the animal 
tales, but is manifested in everyday life. A peasant in whom 
this belief is still strong will never intentionally mistreat 
an animal, and tries to explain or to cause the animal to 
forget a mistreatment due to accident or anger. After the 
death of the farmer his heir has to inform the domestic 
animals of the death and to tell them that he is now the 
master. Some animals understand and condemn unmoral 
actions of man even if these do not affect themselves. The 
bees will never stay with a thief, the stork and the swallow 
leave a farm where some evil deed has been committed; 
the same was formerly true of the house snake. As to the 
plants, if fruit trees grow well and bear fruit, if crops succeed, 


it is not merely a result of a mechanical or magical influence 
of the man's activity; the plants are conscious of being well 
treated and show their gratitude. This must be taken 
literally, not metaphorically. We find the same belief 
dignified in the tales, where, for example, an apple tree 
bends its branches and gives its best fruit to a girl who 
cleaned its trunk from moss, and refuses anything to another 
who did not do this. The same literal sense is contained in 
a saying about the gratitude of the earth, which consciously 
rewards the laborer's well-intentioned and sincere work. 
Every field knows its real owner and refuses to yield to a 
usurper. The earth is indignant at any crime committed 
upon its face; it was crystalline before Cain killed Abel and 
became black after this. It sometimes refuses to cover a 
self-murderer, particularly one who has hanged himself. 
The sun sees and knows everything that happens during 
the day. If something is said against it, it punishes the 
offender, while it is no less susceptible to thanks and bless- 
ings. Prayers are still addressed on some occasions to 
the moon, and evil doings are to be performed rather when 
the moon does not see them. The stars understand the 
man who knows how to ask them, and give an answer 
literally and immediately in the form of inspiration, not 
mediately, through the calculation of their positions, as in 
astrology. The water should not be dirtied or dried up. 
Nothing bad should be done or said near it, because it knows 
and can betray. In the tales a pit shows the same gratitude 
Ifor being cleaned as the apple tree. Fire is perhaps still 
I more animated and conscious, and there is a peculiar respect 
I shown toward it. The children who play with the fire are 
told: "Don't play with the fire. It is not your brother." 
The fire should be kept with the greatest care and clean- 
liness, blessed when lighted in the morning, blessed when 
covered with ashes at night. Once a year (on St. Lauren- 


this' Day) the old fire is extinguished and a new one lighted, 
both ceremonies being accompanied with thanks and 
blessings. Fire should never fop Ipntj pjtVipr from respect or 
because jtjsjiajlicularlz connected with thejajnily/ There 
is a tale of two fires meeting; one of them praised its hostess 
for treating it well, the other complained that its hostess 
mistreated it, kept it carelessly, and never blessed it. Then 
the first fire advised the second to avenge itself, and on the 
following night the second burned the house of its hostess. 
Nothing offensive should be said against any natural 
phenomenon wind, thunderstorm, hail, rain, cold or 
against a season of the year; vengeance may follow. Again, 
we have tales in which anthropomorphized natural phenom- 
ena (e.g., frost, wind) prove grateful for good and revengeful 
for bad treatment. A peculiar attitude can be noticed with 
regard to the days of the year. Each day, in view of its 
individuality, is particularly fit for determined action, 1 or, 
more exactly, reacts favorably upon some actions, unfavor- 
ably upon others. But, more than this, each day returns 
the next year and can then avenge a bad action or reward a 
good action committed last year. Thence comes mainly the 
importance of anniversaries. The same is true of week-days 
and months, and we find here also the exaggeration of the 
normal attitude in tales, where days and months are anthro- 
pomorphized. Traces of the same (but here only half- 
conscious) belief that things understand are found in the 
peasant's unwillingness to change the pronunciation of 
words or to play with them; the pun is seldom if ever used 
by the peasant as a mere joke. Nor should words ever be 
misused, great words applied to petty things, etc. Finally, 

1 There is scarcely any relation between this belief and astrology. Of all the 
mediaeval magical doctrines astrology was the last to reach the peasant, when he 
already knew how to read almanacs; like all other book-doctrines, it reached bun 
in disconnected fragments, while the belief stated in the text is systematically 
applied to the whole year. 


the power of blessings and curses depends in a certain 
measure upon the immanent life of the words. It seems 
natural to explain this respect for words by a magical con- 
nection between the word as a symbol and the thing symbol- 
ized, because for us the word is nothing but a symbol, and 
we have difficulty in imagining how a word can have life and 
power in itself independently of any relation to something 
else. But for the peasant the word is not only a symbol, it 
is a self-existent thing. We find also, 'as will be shown, 
magical power ascribed to the word, but then we are in 
a different system of beliefs. The attitude toward the word 
as an independent being exists. This fact we must fully 
recognize, and only then can we raise the further question 
whether there is any direct genetic relation between this 
attitude and the magical one. 

In connection with the objects made by man the animat- 
ing tendency is expressed perhaps less clearly than hi con- 
nection with natural objects, but it is essentially the same. 
No object should be hurt, destroyed, soiled, neglected, 
or even moved without necessity and this not because of 
utilitarian considerations alone nor because of the fear of 
magical consequences, although those reasons are also active. 
The object has an individuality of its own, and, even if it 
is not alive and conscious in the proper sense, it has a certain 
tendency to maintain its existence. There are cases of an 
almost intelligent vengeance taken by man-made objects, 
and in tales they are also often endowed with consciousness 
and speech. The animation decreases in the case of objects 
whose process of manufacture has been observed, and 
disappears sometimes (but not always) almost completely 
in the case of those which the individual has made himself. 
And the latter are also the only ones which the individual 
has sometimes implicitly the moral right to destroy, if he 
does so immediately after having made them. By existing 
for a certain time they acquire immunity. 


The intelligence of natural objects, particularly of 
animals, manifests itself, not only in the conscious reaction 
upon human activity, but also in other lines. While the 
animal does not know everything man knows, every animal 
has knowledge about some matters which remain hidden 
from man. The properties of wild plants and of minerals 
have been mainly learned by man from the animals, and he 
has yet much to learn. For example, swallows and lizards 
know herbs which can resuscitate the dead; the turtle know 
an herb which destroys every fence and wall, breaks every 
lock, etc. The snakes and the wild birds are the most 
knowing, but the quadrupeds, even the domestic ones, 
understand some things better than man. Another knowl- 
edge which all the animals possess to some degree is the 
prevision of future events, particularly changes of weather 
and deaths. If man carefully watches their behavior, he 
can avoid many mistakes, and he would be still wiser if he 
understood their language. The plants, heavenly bodies, 
earth, water, and fire have the same knowledge of one 
another's properties and the same prevision of the future, 
but in varying degrees. 

Nevertheless, except in tales, where all the anthropo- 
morphic properties of natural objects are exaggerated, we 
can hardly say that in point of knowledge man is generally 
inferior to his environment. In some matters he knows less, / 
but in others more. There is no contrast of any kind 
between man and nature. Man is a being of the same class 
as any natural object, although men understand one 
another better and are more closely connected with one 
another than with the animals or plants. In saying that 
man is a being of the same class we mean also that he has no 
spirit distinct from the body, leaving it temporarily in 
dreams and forever in death. As to dreams, there is no 
trace of the belief that a part of the personality, a soul in 
any sense whatever, leaves the body and visits other places. 



This explanation exists, but in connection with another 
system of beliefs. The fact of seeing everything in dreams 
seems to call for no explanation at all, because it is simply 
assimilated to the fact of imagining things in the waking 
state; it is too naturally accepted to be a problem. The 
problem appears only in connection with prophetic dreams, 
explicit or symbolical, but here again it is not distinct from 
other facts of prophecy or second sight found hi the waking 
state, and the explanation is made, not on a theory of the 
soul, but, as we shall see presently, on the basis of the whole 
conception of the natural world. As to death, there is 
certainly a "spirit" which leaves the body, but it is only 
"vapor" or "air" which dissolves itself in the environment. 
The body simply loses the part of its vital power of which 
the "air" or "vapor" is a condition, in the same way as it 
loses in sleep the power of voluntary movement, seeing, and 
hearing. And even then the body is not really dead; it 
is never quite dead as long as it exists, for under certain 
influences it may come to full life again. It may awake 
periodically at certain moments, or, if it has a particularly 
strong vitality, it may live indefinitely in the tomb, coming 
out every night to eat. This is the case with the vampire. 
A man who will be a vampire can be distinguished even 
during his life by the redness of his cheeks, his strength, his 
big teeth. And all of this has nothing to do with the 
question of a returning soul. 

This, however, is only a partial life. To have a real 
second life the body must be destroyed, and then the man is 
regenerated and lives again, in this world or in some other. 
The regeneration is nothing particular. Every year the 
whole of nature is regenerated from death. There are cases 
of men who, without waiting for natural death, let their 
bodies be destroyed and arose again, young and powerful. 
In other cases the regeneration in this world took place in 
the form of a tree, a lily, an animal, etc. Thus regeneration 



in another world is a fact classed with many other perfectly 
natural facts. The only difference is that the man usually 
lives his second life somewhere else, out of reach of his 
friends, though sometimes mystical communication is 
possible. The instrument of destruction and regeneration 
can be either fire or earth. The purificatory properties of 
fire make it particularly fit for destruction, the fecundity 
of the earth for regeneration. I^oth cremation and burial 
were used in funerals at different epochs, anidagriculture 
gaYe~analogies opjgenerallori by bothjnean^ In primitive 
agriculture the forest was burned and the soil acquired a 
particular fertility. The branch of the willow placed in the 
earth grows into a tree. 

Now this whole world of animated and more or less 
conscious beings is connected by a general solidarity which 
has certainly a mystical character, because the ways of its 
action are usually not completely accessible to observation 
and cannot be rationally determined, but whose manifesta- 
tions express the same moral principle as the solidarity of 
the family and of the community. Even in the reaction of 
nature upon man's activity which we have indicated in the 
examples enumerated above, this solidarity is manifested. 
But we find still more explicit proofs. There is a solidarity 
between certain plants and certain animals. When the an- 
imal (for example, a cow) is sick, the peasant finds the 
proper plant, bends it down, and fastens its top to the 
ground with a stone, saying: "I will release you when you 
make my cow well." The same evening the cow will 
recover. Then the man must go and release the plant, or 
else on the next day the cow will fall sick again and die. 
Similarly animals are interested in plants and can influence 
them. Hence the numerous ways of assuring good crops 
or the successful growth of fruit trees through the help of 
animals. A stork nesting upon the barn makes a full barn. 
A furrow drawn around a field by a pair of twin oxen insures 


it against hail, and the same means is used against the pest, 
with the addition that twin brothers must lead the oxen. 
Sparrows should be allowed to eat cherries in summer and 
grain in winter, and pigeons should be allowed to eat peas, 
because these birds are allies and companions of man, and 
for their share in the crops help them to grow. If there are 
many maybugs in spring, it means that millet will be good. 
The cuckoo can call only till the crops have ceased to 
blossom, because then they fall asleep and the bird ought 
not to wake them. 

There is also a relation of solidarity between the earth 
(also the sun) and all living beings, which is strikingly 
expressed in such beliefs as the following: The earth can 
communicate its fecundity to an animal (for example, to a 
sterile cow), and, on the other hand, the fecundity of 
animals or women can be communicated to a sterile field. 
The sun should not look upon dead animals, because it is 
disturbed, sets in blood, and may send hail and rain. Fires 
lighted on the eve of St. John (June 24), in some localities 
before Easter, make the crops succeed an old pagan custom. 
There is also solidarity between the fire and all living beings. 
It is used in many mystical actions whose aim is to increase 
life, and it should never be fed with anything dead (rem- 
nants of dead animals; straw from the mattress of a dead 
man, or even remnants of wood left after the making of a 
coffin), unless of course the aim is the regeneration of the 
dead object. 1 The same is true, although perhaps in a 
lesser degree, of water. 2 

1 A particular solidarity exists between the fern and the fire; therefore nobody 
should plant the fern near his house, or else the house will burn. In general, the 
fern is a privileged plant. Whoever finds its flower (it is supposed to blossom at 
midnight, June 24) sees all the treasure under the earth and all the things which 
were lost or stolen. 

2 We shall speak later of the magical use of fire and water as symbols of mystical 
powers; here their influence results from their own nature and their solidarity with 
other beings. 


But between beings of the same class the principle of 
solidarity is still more evident. Plants are solidary and 
sympathetic with one another. Therefore the success of 
some of them results in the success of others, and, on the 
contrary, the destruction of any kind of plants never goes 
alone, but influences the lot of others. Predictions can be 
made about crops from the observation of wild plants, and 
this can hardly be interpreted as a rational inference based 
upon the knowledge that these plants need the same at- 
mospheric conditions. No such explanation is in fact at- 
tempted, even when the peasant is asked for the reason of 
his belief. Among animals the solidarity is still greater. 
The house snake is solidary with the cattle and poultry; 
if it is well treated all the domestic animals thrive, but if it 
is killed they will certainly die. The same kind of sympathy 
exists between the goat (also the magpie) and the horses. 
If a swallow's nest is destroyed or a swallow killed, the cows 
give bloody milk. The cow is also related by some mysteri- 
ous link with the weasel; whenever a cow dies some weasel 
must die, and reciprocally. When there is danger the 
animals warn one another. In autumn the redbreast rises 
high in the clouds and watches; when the first snowflake 
falls upon his breast he comes down and informs everybody, 
calling: "Snow, snow!" (nieg). Again, night animals are 
more closely connected with one another than with others. 
But animals of the same species are naturally more solidary 
than those of different species, and their solidarity is less 
mysterious, because more often observable empirically and 
more easily interpreted by analogy with the human solidar- 
ity. An. animal, particularly a wild one, can always call 
all its mates to its rescue if attacked or wounded, and there 
is always some danger hi hunting even the apparently most 
inoffensive animals. 

The knowledge ascribed to natural objects is also -as 
much a sign of solidarity as of intelligence, because it is 


always a knowledge about other natural objects, either a 
result or a cause of the mystical affinity between them. We 
cannot omit here the analogy between social life and nature. 
In social life solidarity reaches as far as the sphere of the 
peasant community, that is, as far as people know one 
another or about one another, and only secondarily and 
accidentally, under the influence of the belief that a guest 
may be the bearer of some unknown power, is it applied 
to the stranger. Nature is also a primary group, and man 
belongs to this group as a member, perhaps somewhat 
privileged, but not a "king of creation." The attitude of 
natural beings toward him, as well as his attitude toward 
them, is that of sympathetic help and respect. Nature is 
actively interested in man's welfare. The sun gives him 
warmth and light (in tales it considers this to be its moral 
duty), the earth gives him crops, fruit trees give fruit, 
springs and rivers give water. Domestic animals give him 
milk, eggs, wool, the dog watches his house, the cat keeps 
the mice away from his food, the bees give honey and wax, 
the stork, snake, swallow, and mole give him general hap- 
piness, the magpie brings him guests, the fire prepares food 
for them. The cuckoo makes him rich or poor for the year, 
according to the amount of money (or some other possession) 
he has in his hand when hearing its voice for the first time. 
And all this is not a metaphor; the "giving" is to be under- 
stood really, as a voluntary act. Other animals, particularly 
birds, advise him what to do. The lark, the quail, the land- 
rail, the pigeon, the sparrow, the frog, etc., tell him when to 
begin some particular farm- work, their calls being inter- 
preted as indistinctly pronounced phrases. And at every 
moment he is warned by some intentional sign against 
misfortune. If a hare or a squirrel runs across his way, it is 
an advice to return. The horse foretells a good or bad end 
of the journey; the dog foresees fire, pest, war, and warns 


his master by howling; the owl foretells death or birth, etc. 
The mice help the children to get good teeth if the child's 
tooth is thrown to them and they are asked to give a better 
one. Any sickness which befalls the man or his farm-stock 
is healed by the help of animals and plants, for this is the 
essence of medicine in the system of beliefs which we are 
now analyzing. We find an enormous number of remedies 
against sickness, and among the oldest of them some which 
contain not the slightest trace of magical symbolism and 
also are not based upon the concept of purely physical action, 
but can be explained only by the idea of sympathetic help. 
We have seen that plants by being bent are compelled to 
help the domestic animals; there are plants which act 
remedially by the mere act of growing in the garden; others 
which destroy sickness when brought home on Easter or 
Pentecost (ancient pagan spring holidays, symbolizing the 
awakening of nature), St. John's Eve (midsummer holiday), 
or on Mary's Day (August 15, and harvest-home holiday). 
And probably many of the plants used internally or applied 
to the body owe their power to the mystical solidarity, not 
to the magical or mechanical influence. There is no doubt 
that the same attitude prevails with regard to animals, at 
least when the help of the animal is asked, though in the use 
of various parts of the dead animal we find mainly the 
magical attitude, and this is quite the contrary of the 
attitude of mystical solidarity. Thus, while from the latter 
standpoint the killing of a snake is a crime, we find in the 
magical system of beliefs that the ointment made from a 
snake killed and boiled (or boiled alive) in oil is among the 
most efficient remedies. 1 

1 The use of stones seems to be mainly magical. There is, for example, a small 
stone which, as the peasant believes, comes from sand melted by lightning, and 
this is particularly efficient, because it has a symbolical relation to the power of 
the lightning. But in some cases a stone helps by its own immanent power, and 
these stones are usually found by birds and reptiles, and their use is learned from 


Plants and animals have also the power of provoking 
toward a given person favorable feelings in others, and of 
promoting in general the social solidarity among men. In 
addition to magical love-charms we find also some plants 
which when sown and cared for by a girl help her to succeed 
with boys, without any magical ceremony. The stork, the 
snake, and the swallow, among other functions, keep har- 
mony in the human family with which they live. 

Finally, even with regard to the beings whose relation 
toward man is not determined (spiders, moths, flies) or which 
may even seem harmful (bugs, mosquitoes, fleas, etc.) the 
normal attitude is expressed in the words: " We don't know 
what they are for, but they must have some use." And, as 
most of the old beliefs are interpreted now from the Chris- 
tian standpoint, a peasant says to a boy who wants to kill a 
frog: "Don't do it. This creature also praises our Lord 
Jesus." Christian legends are indeed connected with most 
of the natural beings who have a mystical value. Healing 
properties of certain plants brought in on the midsummer 
day are explained by the legend that the head of St. John 
when it was cut off fell among these plants. The lark, which 
soars so high, is the favorite bird of the angels; during a 
storm they hold it in their hands, and when, with every 
lightning-flash, the heaven opens, it is allowed to look in. 
The nightingale leads the choir of birds which sing to the 
Virgin- Mary on her assumption day, etc. 

Although the belief in the solidarity of nature is 
most evidently manifested in connection with isolated 
and somewhat extraordinary occurrences, we see that it 
pervades, in fact, the whole sphere of the peasant's 

The solidarity of nature, in the peasant's life, is neither 
a matter of theoretical curiosity nor an object of purely 
aesthetic or mystical feelings aroused on special occasions. 


It has a fundamental practical importance for his everyday 
life; it is a vital condition of Vn's pyisfpnrp Tf V.P h as fo^g 
and clothing and shelter, if he can defend himself against 
evil and organize his social life successfully, it is because he 
is a member of the larger, natural community, which cares 
for him, as for every other member, and makes for him some 
voluntary sacrifices whose meaning we shall investigate 
presently. Even the simplest act of using nature's gifts// , /K 
assumes, therefore, a religious character. The beginning \V 
and the end of the harvest, storing and threshing the crops, 
grinding the grain, milking the cow, taking eggs from the 
hen, shearing the sheep, collecting honey and wax, spinning, 
weaving, and sewing, the cutting of lumber and collecting of 
firewood, the building of the house, the preparation and 
eating of the food all the acts involving a consumption of 
natural products were or are still accompanied by religious 
ceremonies, thanksgivings, blessings and expiatory actions. 
And here we meet a curious fact. Usually when a tradition 
degenerates the rite persists longer than the attitude which 
was expressed in it. But here the old rites have often been 
forgotten, more often still changed into Christian ceremonies 
(religious or magical), while the attitude persists unchanged. 
This is an evident sign that the essence of the old belief is 
still preserved, Christianity has bfpn pb 1 ^ tr> HpQtmy t>>p 
rite but not the attitude. There is a particular seriousness 
and elation about every one of those acts, a gratitude which 
only by second thought is applied to the divinity and first of 
all turns to nature, a peculiar respect, expressing itself, for 
example, in the fear of letting the smallest particle oj food 
be wasted, and a curious pride, when nature favors the man 
(with a corresponding humiliation in the contrary case), 
quite independent of any question of successful efforts, and 
reminding us of the pride which a man feels when he is 
favored by his human community. 


And man must in turn show himself a good member of 
the natural community, be as far as possible helpful to 
other members. Many old tales express explicitly this 
idea. The hero and heroine are asked for help by animals, 
plants, mountains, water, fire, etc., in distress, and they give 
it out of the feeling of sympathy, often without any idea of 
reciprocity, although some reciprocal service usually follows. 
These extraordinary cases give, as usually, only a more evi- 
dent and striking expression of a habitual attitude. But 
every work done in order to increase and to protect life 
assumes the character of an act of solidarity and has a 
religious value. Work is sacred, whenever its immediate 
aim is help. Plowing the field, sowing^ sheltering^ and feed- 
ing the domestic animals, digging ditches and wells, are 
actions of this kind. They have, of necessity, human 
interest in view, but this would not be enough to make them 
sacred. They consist mainly in a mere preparation of con- 
ditions in which the immanent solidarity of nature can 
work better. 

On the other hand, any break of solidarity is immediately 
punished. Some examples have been given, but there is 
an innumerable quantity of them. Cutting a fruit tree 
means sure death to the criminal. Killing a stork is a 
crime which can never be pardoned. In old times a man 
who killed a house snake ceased to be a member of the 
human community, probably because he was no longer a 
member of the natural community. A man who kills a dog or 
a cat is up to the present avoided by everybody unless indeed 
he shoots these animals, for curiously enough this is toler- 
ated. Even lack of solidarity among men is avenged by 
nature. We have already seen that the stork leaves a 
house where some evil deed has been committed. If some- 
one refuses a pregnant woman anything which she asks for, 
mice will destroy his clothes. The destructive forces of 



nature (about which we shall speak presently) usually 
abide, when personified, upon the ridges between fields, 
because those places are desecrated by human quarrels and 
hate. The bees give testimony to the purity of the girl and 
the honesty of the boy by not stinging them. And so on. 

In this system of attitudes the relation between bad 
work and bad results in agriculture is not that of a purely 
physical causality, but that of a moral sanction. If nature 
does not yield anything to a lazy and negligent man, it is 
to avenge his neglect of the duties of solidarity. And the 
sanction may be expressed in a quite unexpected way, on a 
different line from that of the offense. A neglect of the 
duties of solidarity toward some animals or insects may be 
punished by bad crops; careless behavior with regard to 
fire or water may result in some unsuccess with domestic 
animals, etc. 

But there is always a certain amount of destruction neces- 
sary for man to live; all actions cannot be helpful and 
productive.^ And in nature itself there are hostilities and 
struggles, not solidarity alone. How is this to be recon- 
ciled with the beliefs stated above ? 

In order to understand these partly apparent, partly real 
breaks of solidarity we must know what is the general mean- 
ing, the aim of this solidarity itself. It cannot be a struggle 
with the external world, for the solidarity embraces the 
whole world; nor a struggle with any evil principle, because 
there seems to be no evil principle in nature; nor yet the 
struggle against bad and harmful beings, for there are no 
beings essentially bad and harmful. The only reason for 
nature's solidarity is a common struggle against death, or 
rather against every process of decay, of which death is the 
most absolute and typical form. Sickness, destruction, 
misery, whiter, night, are the main phenomena correlated 
with death. 


It is really difficult to say how far this essentially negative 
idea of death is interpreted as meaning a positive entity, 
because the peasant's attitude toward it seems not to be 
quite consistent. On the one hand, indeed, death with all 
the connected evils has no place within the community of 
nature. It is neither a natural being nor a natural force, 
for there are no forces distinct from individual things, there 
is no trace of a philosophical abstraction to which any kind 
of reality could be ascribed. There is therefore only a 
plurality of phenomena of decay, each of which separately 
seems to be nothing but a result of the immanent weakness 
of the decaying thing itself everything "has to die," is 
" mortal " or of a harmful influence of some exterior natural 
things which make a break in solidarity or punish such a 
break. But, on the other hand, death as an objectified 
concept is an animated thing and can be anthropomorphi- 
cally represented, like other phenomena of decay. We 
know by tradition of two usual shapes which death assumes 
that of a nebulous woman in white and that of a skeleton. 
The latter seems to be derived from Christian paintings. 
But it can change its shapes and appear in the form of an 
animal, plant, or any other natural object; it may also be, as 
in some tales, shut up by man in a cask, buried in the earth, 
etc. It likes also to stay on ridges between fields and about 
hedges. In short, it has no exclusive form or abode and 
differs therefore from natural beings, while there is an evi- 
dent analogy between it and the spirits. The same is true 
of diseases (pest, fever) and sometimes of "misery." Winter 
has a little more of the character of a natural being. We 
find here a hesitation between attitudes and a type of belief 
intermediary between naturalism and spiritualism, resulting 
from the fact that for death, diseases, misery (poverty), 
etc., as independent beings there is no place in the com- 
munity of nature and therefore they must, if anthropo- 


morphized at all, stay outside. But precisely for this 
reason this is the only case where objectification and ani- 
mation have no essential importance. The activity of every 
natural object and its relation with others result, as we have 
seen, from its character as an animated and conscious 
being. But it is not so with death. It is impossible to 
interpret all the actual facts of death in nature by the 
activity of the death-spirit, and such interpretation is 
never attempted. We find at most the fact of human death 
explained in this way. This limitation of the activity of 
the death-spirit to the human world is still more evident 
with regard to the "bad air" or "black death," that is, the 
pest, which is more distinctly represented as a woman, some- 
times flying on bat-wings, sometimes waving a red kerchief 
above villages and towns; but this "black death," whose 
essence is quite inexplicable for the peasant, is afraid of many 
natural beings of water, fire, reptiles. In short, as soon as 
death is conceived as a being, its power is limited; and it is 
not at all identical with a general principle of natural decay. 
Such a conception seems, therefore, to be a late result of evo- 
lution, going on with a separation between the human and 
the natural world. The more determined the image of 
death (as well as of disease, misery, etc.), the farther we are 
from the primitive naturalistic system. It is probable, 
therefore, that originally death, more or less vaguely identi- 
fied with disease, misery, winter, meant an undetermined 
"something," "it," or "the evil" rather a species than a 
unique entity, having just enough reality to provoke a mixed 
and characteristic attitude of dread, hate, and disgust which 
the peasant manifests in the presence of anything connected 
with death. 

This attitude is found in the aversion which the peasant 
always shows to talking about death, passing near a ceme- 
tery or near a place where someone died, staying with a 


dead body, etc. It is bad luck to meet a coffin containing a 
dead body, and particularly to look after it. The straw from 

thp lagf frpH ar>r l t^ pplinfprg Wf; f r nm flip rnffi'n shr^ilr! nnt 

be left in the house, because somebody else may die in the 

house.^ (We have seen that they should not be burned out 

of respect for the fire.) For the same reason no one should 

j look into a mirror which hung in the dead person's room 

.,0/4^ [I during death, and no member of the family should throw 

ju^ ^J* \ 

, uJ 'inearth upon the coffin when it is sunk into the grave. All 

l r these beliefs are magical, but tlipy^nw hnw fnr|r|pTnpnia1 
is_t^&-dfeft4-<iLdeath. And anyone who by his occupation 
has some connection with death is more or less feared, hated, 
and despised the executioner, the gravedigger, even the 
women who wash and dress the body. A person who cuts 
down the body of a hanged man, even with the best inten- 
tions, is particularly shunned. This attitude prevails with 
regard also to animal death. Those who have something 
to do with killing animals and preparing their bodies are 
avoided almost as much as the executioner. Among these 
are the dog-catchers, tanners and skin-dealers, butchers 
(if they kill), etc. All these functions were therefore usually 
performed by Jews, or by men who had little to lose. Up to 
the present, in Russian Poland the dog-catchers are often 
men who at the bidding of the authorities act as the execu- 
tioners of political offenders, and most of the butchers and 
skin-dealers are still Jews. But hunting does not provoke 
this attitude, perhaps because in old tunes it was indispen- 
sable to defend the crops and the domestic animals. 

The same attitude, as we have already seen in some 
examples, is ascribed to other natural beings. The sun 
hates the sight of death; animals and plants foresee it for 
themselves and for the man; they avoid and despise any- 
body who brings death, they will not abide in a place soiled 
with death, etc. Only earth, water, and fire, while they 


should never be profaned uselessly by anything connected 
with death, are still, in a sense, above the dread, because 
they have a power over death. 

Sickness (except pest), misery, and winter do not pro- 
voke the attitude of dread and hate to the same extent 
because, although they are varieties of the same evil, their 
influence is weaker, they are more easily avoided, and their 
effect is more easily repaired. 

But this dread of death never rises to a tragical pitch, 
never leads to a pessimistic view of existence or to fatalism. 
The tragic attitude comes only with Christianity, with sin, 
the devil, and hell. In the naturalistic religious system 
life is always ultimately victorious over death, thanks to 
the solidarity of living beings. Within certain limits, death, 
total or partial (for example, sickness, misery), can be 
avoided through reciprocal help, and when it comes it is 
always followed by regeneration. And this explains at the 
same time the necessity of sacrifice, required from all the 
natural beings by the natural solidarity, and the possibility 
of sacrifice, since no sacrifice is ultimate in view of the future 

The life of every natural being can be maintained only 
by willing gifts of other beings, which may go as far as a 
voluntary gift of life. In many tales we find animals con- 
sciously sacrificing their life for the sake of man or of one 
another, even if this sacrifice proves usually only temporary, 
because the animal is regenerated in the human form, which 
was its primitive form. In some legends animals and plants 
sacrifice themselves for the Virgin Mary, or for Jesus during 
his human life. A reward usually follows. In everyday 
life there is no explicit acknowledgment of the readiness of 
natural beings to sacrifice themselves, but implicitly this 
readiness is assumed; while, as we know, any useless 
destruction of life is a crime because a break of solidarity, a 


destruction which is necessary to maintain the life of other 
beings, is permitted. This applies indifferently to man and 
nature. We find the story of a girl, the ward of a village 
elder, whom the latter buried alive during the pest, making 
thus an expiatory sacrifice in order to save the life of the 
rest of the inhabitants. Man is justified in killing animals 
for food, but never more than he actually needs and not for 
sale, although, sophistically enough, he may sell the living 
animal knowing that it will be killed. He can cut trees to 
build a house or a barn, but it is not fair to cut them for 
sale. Dry wood should be used as firewood, and only 
when none can be found is it licit to fell some tree; old or 
poorly growing trees should be selected for this purpose, 
even if the forest belongs to the state or to a manor, and 
therefore no utilitarian considerations prevail. The only 
case in which it is permitted to cut, sell, or burn any trees 
is when the land is to be turned to agricultural purposes, 
because here destruction will be expiated by production. 
The man may destroy the insects which damage his crops 
or the rats in his barn, but it is always better to drive them 
away by some means to frighten them, for instance, by 
catching and maltreating one of their number. The wolf 
is justified in eating other animals, but man is also justified 
in slaying him. In short, every living being has the right 
to get its living and to defend itself against death or decay 
in any form, and other beings have to acknowledge this right; 
but every destruction beyond the necessary is a crime, and 
then retaliation is just. And there is, in this respect, no 
essential difference of value between man and animal which 
would justify destroying life for his purposes. We have an 
interesting story which shows this very plainly. A lark 
complains to a hungry wolf that a mole threatens to destroy 
her nest with her young ones an unnecessary act of destruc- 
tion, since the mole should take the trouble to pass around 



the nest. The wolf helps her and kills the mole, but on the 
condition that the lark will procure him food, drink, and 
amusement. The lark does this, but at the cost of a human 
life, and this situation is morally all right. 

The idea that natural things may be destroyed only if 
there is an immediate relation between them and actual 
needs of living beings explains the peasant's aversion toward 
the industrial exploitation of nature on a large scale. In- 
deed in this exploitation the relation between the act oL 
destruction and the need to be satisfied becpmpg go r^mnt^ 
andmediate, and the needs themselves are so abstract when 
viewed from the standpoint of the traditional industrial 
activity, that the peasant fails to see any adequate reason 
for destruction, anoVthe latter seems a crimeagainst natural^ 
solidarity. Such is always the first reaction of the peasant 
when a sawmill, a brewery, or a sugar factory is set up, a 
railway bujl^ - * Tt\\^ ^ng; perhapseven the use ofjigri-_ 
cultural machines is disliked partly because through them, 
the .relation ofrnati toward nature becomes impersonal and 
devoid of warmth and respect. 

But the sacrifice of life necessary to support the life of 
others is, as we have said, never ultimate. Regeneration 
always comes unless death was a punishment for a break 
of solidarity. The ideal is a regeneration of the same indi- 
vidual in the same form, that is, resurrection. This ideal 
is depicted in tales. We find it in the pagan funeral cere- 
monies, where the dead man was burned with his horse, 
his dog, his agricultural instruments, arms, etc. In Chris- 
tian legends actual present resurrection, not a future life 
in heaven, is the favorite theme, and traces of this belief 
are found also in the tales of today. The annual return of 
leaves and fruits to the trees, the recovery from a sickness, 
the melting of ice on the rivers, the phases of the moon, 
eclipses, the growing heat of the sun in spring, the lighting 


of a fire which was kept under the ashes, and other analogous 
phenomena are conceived as partial resurrections after a 
partial death. And whenever resurrection cannot be ad- 
mitted attention is turned at least to the continuity of 
successive generations, and the connection between genera- 
tion and regeneration in the peasant's mind is thus very 
close. The familial attitude, the continuity of the family 
in spite of the death of its members, the lack of purely indi- 
vidual interests, certainly gave a particular strength to 
this partial identification of the resurrection of the individual 
with the regeneration of life in new individuals. The appre- 
ciation of home-bred domestic animals above those pur- 
chased, the unwillingness to change seeds, manifested even 
now in many localities, may have their background also in 
the same attitude. 

Even when the continuity of generations is lacking, 
however, the idea of regeneration is not absent. The dead 
may appear in a different form, or a different individual 
may appear in his place. Between these two ideas the dis- 
tinction is not sharply drawn, and sometimes we do not 
know what the real idea is. The changing of men, animals, 
and plants into one another a particularly frequent sub- 
ject of tales and legends gives us definitely the first idea; 
the individual is the same throughout the process of regen- 
eration, in spite of a different form, and may assume some- 
times his preceding form. The change, we must remember, 
is quite real and should never be interpreted as a mere 
assuming by a spirit of different bodily appearances. The 
second idea, that of new individuals appearing in the place 
of the old ones, is found when, after the burning of a forest, 
crops grow upon the same soil, when a new fruit tree is 
planted upon the spot where .another grew, when worms 
are "born from" a dead body. But in such examples as 
the following: a willow growing upon the grave of a girl 



and betraying her sister as her murderer; lilies growing 
upon the grave of a murdered husband and betraying the 
wife, we cannot tell whether it is the same living being or 
another. And it is easy to understand that in view of the 
general solidarity of nature this question has not a very 
great importance. As the familial attitude helps to oblit- 
erate the distinction between individual regeneration and 
generation, so the close solidarity of communal life and the 
corresponding social attitude make the difference between 
change of form and change of individual a secondary one. 
Death is regarded both from the individual standpoint and 
from that of the group; and while from the first it is of 
great importance whether the same individual or another is 
regenerated, for the group it signifies relatively little, so 
long as the number and value of the individuals are not 
diminished. Death is dreaded in general for the human or 
natural group, but the dread is much weaker when only 
the death of a particular individual, even of the subject 
himself, is in question. The peasant is able to prepare him- 
self calmly for his own death or for that of his dearest ones, 
but he grows almost insane with fear when a calamity 
menaces the whole community. The memory of pest and 
war has lived for two centuries in some localities. 

Of course, the easier the regeneration, the less importance 
ascribed to death and to acts of destruction. In general 
therefore, man is freer to use plants than animals, though 
the question of a higher degree of consciousness and indi- 
vidualization and of a greater similitude with man plays 
a part here. Among plants, again, those are more freely 
used which are regenerated every year. When the forests 
in Poland were large, the inhibitions with regard to trees 
(except fruit trees) were much weaker than they are now; 
the forest seemed to restore itself easily and spontane- 
ously. Among the animals, aside from the question of 


economic value, the more productive ones are less appre- 
ciated individually more readily sold or killed, etc. 

The religious system which we have sketched does not 
require any magician, priest, or mediator of any kind be- 
tween the layman whose everyday occupations keep him 
within the sphere of profanity and the sacred powers which 
are too dangerous to be approached without a special 
preparation. Here every man in his practical life is con- 
tinually in touch with the religious reality, is supported and 
surrounded by it, is an integrate part of the religious world. 
The opposition of sacred and profane has no meaning in tl 
system; if sometimes it appears later, it is only when the re 
ligious attitude toward nature encounters an irreligious one 

But there is another practical problem connected wit 
the present system which makes a religious specialist nece 
sary. In order to prosper within the community of nature 
the peasant must know the relations which exist among the 
members of this community. He must know his own right 
and duties; he must know how to make good an off ens 
against the group of which he is a part, how to avoid ven- 
geance, how to conciliate the good-will of, and to get helj 
from, his fellow-members. The relations hi the natun 
society are still more various and complicated than in the 
human society, and it is indispensable to know the degre 
and the kind of solidarity between any and all natui 
beings in order to act upon one through another. Last but 
not least, only a man who knows nature and understam 
the warnings and signs which other beings give to 
can foresee future events and direct his activity accorc 
to this foresight. But it is evident that the ordinary rm 
has among his occupations no time to acquire all this knowl 
edge, even if he is sufficiently intelligent. Thence come 
the necessity of a specialist, of a "person who knows." A 
man who "knows" is usually called wroz or wiedzqcy, 



"prophet" (augur) or "knower"; a woman mqdra, "the 
wise one." Both should be strictly distinguished from the 
magician and witch on the one hand, the priest on the other, 
although actually they often degenerate individually into 
magicians and witches. The wroz is often recruited from 
among those who have to deal much with nature and have 
leisure enough to learn what they need to know bee- 
keepers, shepherds, sometimes foresters, but seldom hunters 
or fishermen, whose occupation requires killing. Woman's 
activity in peasant life is less specialized, and therefore any 
woman, but usually one who has not many children, can 
become a mqdra. There are somewhat more wise women 
than men, probably because the woman's usual occupations 
involve a closer relation with plants and domestic animals, 
and because the woman finds more easily the necessary 
leisure; but this numerical difference is not even approxi- 
mately so great as that between magicians and witches, and 
this shows that the sex as such has no importance in matters 
of "knowing," while it has much in magic. 

The fundamental functions of the wise man or woman are 
to preserve from generation to generation the store of 
naturalistic-religious "knowledge," including the legends 
and tales, and to give practical advice and help. They are 
paid for their advice, but they never try to harm anyone 
as the witches do, and can be moved by no reward to do 
this, because they are afraid of incurring the vengeance of 
the natural community. Their usual answer in such cases 
is, " I am not allowed to do this." With regard to the Chris- 
tianjreliftion they behave rather indifferently. They go 
to church, perform the rites, use Christian formulae in their 
conjurations, but they do it rather in order to qyt credit 
among the people and not to be identified with witr.hes and 
magicians than from true Christian feeling. On the other 
hand, they never use Christian sacred objects in a perverted 


sense, and sacrilege has no value for them as it has for the 
witches and magicians. In fact, not only are there no ma- 
gical elements in their practice, but they are able to destroy 
magic. They recognize magical influences easily ; they know 
at once a magician or a witch and show a curious atti- 
tude of hate and contempt for them. Their main means of 
destroying magic is conjuration, in which they address them- 
selves to the spirit in the bewitched object with entreaties 
and threats, and call for help to good spirits and to natural 
objects. 1 Nature in generaj. is regarded as hostile to harm- 
ful magic, and natural beings help one another against ma- 
gical influences and harmful spirits and collaborate also 
with useful spirits. The same plants and animals which 
bring good luck to man can defend him against evil forces. 
Flowers and plants which while growing are helpful imme- 
diately to men and animals keep the witches away when cu 
and buried under the threshold, and when burned disclose 
the presence of a witch. In one of the tales the bluebell 
defends a woman against water spirits; the magpie when 
killed and hung above the stable hinders the bewitching 
of the horses, etc. It is easy to understand that magic 
appears as a disturber of the natural harmony, but the 
faith in nature, as long as it remains alive, permits man to 
hope that the community of natural beings has power enough 
to defend its members against this unnatural evil as well as 
against the natural evil death. It is only when the faith 
in nature is partly lost that this hope is shaken and man 
appeals to supernatural powers that is, to good magic 
in order to defend himself against the harm brought by evil 
magical influences. 

2. We have now to examine the second system of reli- 
gious beliefs and attitudes, based upon the admission of a 

. t- 1 A 



1 The concept of "spirits" is of course here borrowed from the second religious 
system, treated below, in which we find the properly magical action developed. 


2 35 

world of spirits within, beside or above natural objects. 
We point out that no historical connection can be established 
in the present state of historical knowledge between this 
system and the one just examined, and perhaps it will never 
be possible to establish it with certainty, since Christianity 
has destroyed as much as it could of the vestiges of the 
pagan past. Most of the spirits and magical practices of 
the present were introduced with the Christian religion, but 
in the pagan period a system of spirits coexisted with the 
naturalistic system. It is even possible that the two were 
more closely connected at that time than later and that 
Christianity had the effect of dissociating them. It brought 
a world of spirits in which the pagan spirits but not the 
pagan naturalism found a place. Two examples will illus- 
trate this supposition. The lightning or thunderstroke 
(piorun) was at the same time a natural being (fire) and a 
divinity or the expression of a divinity; probably the two 
meanings were not quite distinguished. Its second char- 
acter was assimilated to the Christian mythology, but not 
the first. We find, therefore, two contradictory beliefs. 
The lightning is the instrument of punishment in the hands 
of God or a weapon of the angels in their fight against the 
devils; a man struck by lightning must be a great sinner. 
But there is also a belief that a man struck by lightning is 
without sin and goes immediately to heaven, because fire 
in the naturalistic system is the purifactory instrument of 
regeneration. 1 Another example is the snake. The snake 
was a powerful natural being, and at the same time it was 
consecrated to a divinity. In the Christian system it 
became a symbol of the devil, but its first character was 

1 A mixture of both elements is found in another belief that lightning is 
turned mainly against the souls of children who die without christening. There is 
present the idea of punishment and also of regeneration. The souls are persecuted 
for not being Christian, but at the same time the fire seems to be an equivalent of 
baptismal water. 


left unheeded, and thus we find the curious contradiction 
that the snake is sometimes considered a benefactor and its 
killing is a crime, and sometimes again it is the incarnation 
of the evil spirit and should always be destroyed. 

The existence of mythological beings is not in itself 
always sufficient to constitute a religious system different 
from naturalism, for these beings may be conceived as 
natural beings and included in the system of natural solidar- 
ity. Thus, when we find legends of giants and dwarfs whc 
live more or less like men within nature, helped by, am 
helpful to, animals, plants, or men, and who, like all natun 
fight against death and destruction; or when there are 
mythical home-, field-, and forest-beings who need humai 
offerings of food and drink in order to live, and prove theii 
gratitude by protecting the house and the crops, who avenge 
a breach of solidarity, and who run away if not cared foi 
we have nothing but an imaginary extension of the natun 
world, not a supernatural structure outside of this worlc 
The attitudes which man shows toward these beings am 
which he ascribes to them are not different from those whic 
characterize the whole natural community. And we 
easily understand why such an extension of nature is neces 
sary and what its role is. In any given stage of knowledge 
about nature extraordinary and unexpected phenomei 
cannot always be derived from the assumed properties ol 
the known natural beings, and then two ways are openec 
Man may either suppose that his knowledge is false, that 
the natural beings have other properties than those which he 
ascribed to them, or he can imagine that the inexplicable 
phenomena are caused by some beings which up to tl 
present he had no opportunity of knowing. The secom 
explanation requires, certainly, less intellectual effort am 
has been used in the history of human thought more fre 
quently than the first. We do not know how far the mythc 



logical beings of the naturalistic religious system were 
spontaneously invented and how far brought from elsewhere ; 
but their function in either case is clear: they have to 
account for the extraordinary and unexpected, to fill even- 
tual gaps in the system. Their role is therefore limited; 
they are only one class of natural beings among others and 
share with others the peasant's religious attention at certain 
moments and in certain circumstances. 

The new religious system is found only when behind all 
the natural events, ordinary as well as extraordinary, su- 
pernatural powers are supposed to reside and to act, where 
there is a dissociation between the visible, material thing 
and process on the one hand and the invisible, immaterial 
being and action on the other. No such dissociation is 
found in the naturalistic system. The things themselves 
have a conscious, spiritual principle indissolubly united 
with their outward material appearance, and the mystical, 
invisible influence of one natural being upon another imper- 
ceptibly mediates a visible material action. When these 
elements are dissociated, the invisible, immaterial principle 
is a spirit in the proper sense of the word, as opposed to the 
material objects and distinct from them, even if it should 
manifest itself, not only by acting upon these objects 
from outside, but by entering into an object or dwelling 
permanently hi it. And the invisible, immaterial process 
of action of one thing upon another becomes magical as 
against the visible process of material action, even if it 
should be exerted, not only by a spirit upon a material 
object or reciprocally, but by one material object upon 

There are many categories of spirits, differing by the 
nature of their relation to material objects. Some of them 
are scarcely more than naturalistic mythological beings; 
thedr spiritual nature manifests itself only indirectly by the 


fact that man's attitude toward them is the same as toward 
other spirits and differs from that toward natural beings. 
Here belong, for example, water spirits, boginki, who have 
human bodies but can become invisible at will, who can be 
heard washing their linen at night or at midday, and who 
bear children. They often try to exchange their children 
for human ones, usually only so long as the latter are not 
yet baptized. Like real spirits they can assume the foi 
of any woman, and it even happens that under the aspect 
of friends and relatives they entice a woman after childbirtl 
from her home into the forests and marshes and mistreat 
her there, while one of them steals the child, puts her o\ 
in its place, and remains in the house in the form of th( 
abducted woman. A changed child can be recognized froi 
its bad temper, its growing ugliness, and its enormous 
appetite. The boginka who took the place of the real worm 
is also bad-tempered, capricious, and evil. In order t( 
force the boginka to give the child back, a naturalistic means 
is often used. The boginka's child must be mistreated am 
beaten. Then the boginka brings the real child back am 
takes her own away, but she tries to avenge herself by 
biting off, for example, a finger of the real child, or by mak- 
ing it as bad-tempered as her own. With the exception of 
this means of getting the real child back (which shows 
that the boginka is still very much a mythological pagaiT 
being), the other means are mainly magical and the same as 
against the devil the sign of the cross, Christian amulets, 
exorcisms. The priest can free the woman from the hands 
of the boginka, but he must wear all his ceremonial clothes 
turned wrong side out. 

Another kind of beings, intermediary between mytho- 
logical natural beings and spirits, are the topczyki children 
born of illegal relations and drowned secretly without 
baptism. Except for the last point, in which the analog 





with real spirits of the dead is evident, the topczyk is a 
natural being. He has a body, which he may, indeed, some- 
times change. He grows hi water. His action is physical, 
not magical. He spoils the hay, draws by mere strength 
animals and men into the water, etc. Magical rites have 
no particular power against him. The best way is simply 
to avoid him. The naturalistic tendency in the representa- 
tion of the topczyki is shown in a legend in which two of 
them are drawn by fishermen out of a pond. One was 
hunchbacked from having been shut up hi a pot for seven 
years; the other was covered with hair like an animal. 
They were taken to a human house and christened, but they 
died soon after. 

Skrzat, the house-being, and lesny, the wood-being, have 
lost the importance they had hi pagan times. The first 
was beneficent, the second brought little harm except by 
making men lose their way. The last vestige of a field- 
being is probably preserved in the poltuLnica, midday- woman, 
who strangles anybody who sleeps at noon in the field, 
particularly upon the ridge between fields. Will-o'-the- 
wisps (compare below) are beings who live in marshes and 
meadows ; they have little of a spiritual character, have very 
small bodies, warm themselves around a fire, etc. They 
viciously mislead drunken people, but do no other harm 
unless aroused by some tactless action. Religious magic 
is only partly efficient against them. 

The belief in cloud-beings, planetniki or latawce, is very 
indeterminate and hesitant. Sometimes they are mytho- 
logical natural beings dwelling in the clouds; sometimes 
spirits directing the clouds, bringing rain, hail, thunder- 
storm; sometimes spirits of children who died without 
baptism (often represented as persecuted by the clouds and 
lightnings); sometimes even living men and women, magi- 
cians or witches. The means of attracting or dispelling 


clouds are sometimes based, therefore, upon natural solidar- 
ity against lightning, the stork and swallow; against hail, 
plowing around the field with oxen, particularly twins, 
planting certain trees, etc. and sometimes again magical, 
as we shall see presently. 

Another being is the kania, which appears in the form of 
a beautiful woman and steals children, who are never seen 
any more. The jedza is a horrid old woman who eats 
children; the wil, a being who comes in the night, terrifies 
children, and hinders people from sleeping ("It stands 
always where you look"). The nightmare, zmora, has two 
meanings: it is sometimes a soul, as we shall see later, but 
sometimes also a distinct, half -spiritual being which strangles 
sleeping men and rides at night upon horses. All these 
beings have the same intermediary character between 
natural objects and spirits; they are more or less material- 
istically conceived, but they are acted upon mainly by 
magical means, not by appeals to natural solidarity. 

The probable origin of their intermediary character can 
be traced. They were primitively nothing but natural 
beings, requiring some help from man and harmful only 
if this help was refused. But Christianity tried to assimi- 
late them to the devil and to fight against them by magical 
means. Thus they assumed gradually the features of beings 
against which man had to fight, and which consequently 
were essentially harmful, and some of the spiritual character 
of the devil was transferred to them. We find facts, in the 
past and even in the present, proving that the peasant for 
a long time hesitated between the two attitudes. Officially 
he used the magic of the church against them, treated them 
as harmful, and tried to drive them away; but privately 
and secretly he kept the old duties of solidarity toward 
them, sought to excuse himself for using the church magic 
against them, and tried to win their help. Even if accept- 



ing their help was as sinful in the eyes of the church as 
accepting the help of the devil and led to damnation, the 
peasant could hardly be moved to believe this. And he 
did not even believe in the complete efficiency of church 
magic against them. Up to the present magic remains 
only partly efficient, and it is easier to get rid of the devil 
than of these intermediary beings. 

A particularly interesting gradation of beliefs is found 
with regard to the human soul. There are at least six 
varieties of beings corresponding to the concept of soul 
the ordinary vampire, the man-nightmare, the Christian 
vampire-spirit, the specter, the soul doing penance on earth, 
the soul coming from purgatory, hell, or, occasionally, 
paradise. The relative degree to which these spirits are 
detached from the body and lead an independent existence 
is the reason for this diversity. 

The ordinary vampire, mentioned in the preceding sec- 
tion, is scarcely a spirit at all. It is a living body, even if 
less alive than before death and devoid of some of the human 
ideas and feelings. It can be touched, even grappled with, 
and killed for the second time, after which it does not appear 
again. Sometimes it continues to occupy itself at night 
with farm- or housework, and the male vampire can even 
have sexual intercourse with his wife and bring forth chil- 
dren, but they are always weak and die soon of course be- 
cause the father has less life. The only spiritual characters 
of the vampire are relative independence of physical condi- 
tions (ability to pass through the smallest opening, to dis- 
appear and to appear suddenly, etc.), which was acquired 
only after death, and the possibility of being influenced to 
a certain extent by religious magic sign of the cross, 
prayer, amulets again a character not possessed by the 
man during his life. But the most effective means of getting 
rid of the vampire are the well-known natural actions 


cutting off the head, passing of an aspen pole through the 
heart, binding of the feet with particular plants, etc. 

The human nightmare is already a soul, detaching itself 
from the living body during sleep and embracing, strangling, 
sucking the blood of men and animals or the sap of plants. 
During its absence the body lies as dead, and real death 
may follow if someone turns it, because then the soul cannot 
find the way back. The soul is of course half -material, 
since it exerts immediate material action, can be wounded 
(the scar is then seen upon the body), can be physically 
grasped. But it is also spiritual, because it can be detached 
from the body, assume various forms animal, plant, even 
inanimate object can pass where a material being could 
not pass, and finally because the really efficient means 
against it are magical (Christian amulets), not natural. 

The Christian vampire is also a soul, of the same nature 
as the nightmare, but walking after the man's death, and 
thus still more dissociated from the body. It is not even 
referred to any particular body. We call it "Christian" 
because it originated from the primitive, bodily vampire 
under the evident influence of the Christian theory of the 
soul and of Christian rites. On the one hand, a christened 
soul must be detached from the body after death; the old 
bodily vampire theory is therefore not in accordance with 
the Christian system of beliefs. But, on the other hand, the 
christened soul cannot be a spirit- vampire, unless damned, 
and then it belongs to a different class of spirits. The con- 
tradiction was solved by a theory, to which the Catholic 
rites themselves gave birth, that there are two souls, one 
of which becomes Christian through baptism, the other 
through confirmation. The second soul of the unconfirmed 
lives on earth and becomes a vampire. According to a 
different legend, there was a time when vampires were 
frightfully numerous, and the people appealed to the pope 



for help. The pope advised them to give two names at 
baptism, in order to christen also the second soul. Since 
that time the vampires have almost disappeared. 

The specter is a very undetermined kind of spirit. It 
is always some soul, but seldom identified, and its aim is 
unknown. It is neither harmful nor useful. It appears in 
a visible form at night, walking near a cemetery or a church, 
sometimes in the church. It is thus not anti-Christian, not 
afraid of church magic. There is a story of a specter 
frightening men who planned a sacrilegious use of church 
objects. It is an intermediary being between the souls 
which are still partly connected with the system of nature 
and those which are already quite supernatural. 

The souls doing penance upon earth belong to the latter 
group. Their origin seems purely Christian, as the idea of 
penance itself. Spirits of this class are very numerous. 
They manifest their existence mainly by noises, but some- 
times they talk, sometimes they appear hi any form. The 
bodies which they assume can often not be touched, even 
when, as sometimes happens, they enter into real bodies, 
human, animal, or plant. To this group belong unchris- 
tened people (some of them, as we have seen, still natural- 
istically conceived), those who died suddenly, without 
penitence, and those who have sinned only in some particu- 
lar line. The penance which they do has a magical char- 
acter; it is always analogous to the sin and has thus the 
aim of destroying the sinfulness. Children who died with- 
out baptism try to attract attention by various noises 
cracking in the fire, rapping on the furniture and walls, 
moaning in the wind, etc. in order to be baptized; the 
man who hears them should throw some water and baptize 
them, giving them always two names, Adam and Eve, for 
the sex of the dead is unknown. Not only unbaptized 
children, but also men who were wrongly baptized, wander 


after their death. For instance, there are in one locality 
many graves of Russians killed in a battle against the Poles 
in the eighteenth century, and their souls find no rest any- 
where, for they were christened according to the rites of the 
Greek church. They cannot be helped, and must await 
the last judgment. Those who died a sudden death always 
haunt the place where they died. They want to confess 
their sins, and it happens sometimes that they succeed and 
are saved, if only they find a courageous priest to absolve 
them. Any sudden death has something uncanny for the 
peasant and is supposed to be sent, not by God, but by the 
devil whether with God's permission or not is not always 
clear. Finally, people whose sin was not, as in the previous 
cases, a lack of religious purification, but some particular 
evil deeds, often try in vain to undo the harm which they 
wrought. Thus a man who was a miser during his life, 
wronged the poor, or refused gifts to the church, and par- 
ticularly one who buried or in any way hid his money, hovers 
about his collected wealth, wants to show the living where 
it is or to compel his heir to divide it with the poor and the 
church; but the devil usually hinders the living from under- 
standing or fulfilling his bidding. The soul of a surveyor 
who measured falsely during his life wanders in the form of 
a will-o'-the-wisp, looks over his wrong measurements, and 
wishes in vain to correct them. The soul of a woman who 
did not respect the food and threw the remnants into the 
pail with the dishwater is heard at night dabbling in the 
pail in search of remnants in order to still her hunger. A 
man who once slapped his father wanders at night, in human 
but indistinct form, and compels his own living son to give 
him a blow. Two kums who quarreled during their life 
cannot find rest until somebody brings them together and 
reconciles them. A man who hunted on Sunday during 
the mass wanders after his death and hinders people from 



hunting. Another who swore by the devil and never said 
his prayer on Angelus shows himself at noon in the form of 
a dog which devils, in the form of crows, chase about. And 
so on. 

These souls still dwell in their old world, though they are 
spirits, completely detached from material bodies, which 
they assume only in order to carry out their particular end, 
and absolutely dependent on magic, not at all on natural 

The last class of souls, while always more or less inter- 
ested in their old environment, dwell elsewhere in purga- 
tory, hell, or paradise, as distinguished from heaven. Those 
places are sometimes thought to be beyond, sometimes upon, 
the earth, in remote localities. In one myth they are beyond 
Rome, and from one of the Roman churches the funnels 
of hell can be seen. The souls come occasionally to their 
old residence, to warn or to help the living, to ask them for 
prayers or good deeds; those from purgatory come every 
year on All Souls' Day, and listen to a mass which the soul 
of some dead priest celebrates. From paradise they come 
relatively seldom and only on some altruistic mission. 
Whenever a soul manifests in some way its appearance (this 
concerns also, to some extent, the previous category of 
souls), it should be addressed with the words: "Every 
spirit praises God." If it answers: "I praise him also," 
the living person should ask: "What do you want, soul?" 
Whatever it begs for, prayer or good deed in its favor, ought 
to be granted. But if the soul answers nothing to the first 
greeting, the living person should make the sign of the cross 
and say, "Here is the cross of God; fly away, contrary 
sides." For it is a damned soul and can no longer be saved. 

The devil is not regarded as a unique character. First, 
of course, there are many devils, though only a few of them 
have distinct names. The devil is not an essentially evil 


being, although often malicious, harmful, or disgusting. 
The proverb: "The devil is not so terrible as he is painted," 
is very popular, as well as the other: "Who lives near hell, 
asks the devil to be his kum." In dealing with men the 
devil is often cheated, not only because he is not particularly 
clever, but also because he usually shows more honesty in 
keeping agreement than men show. Often the term 
"devil" is simply substituted for some other mythological 
being whose old character and name are forgotten. With 
regard to the devils we therefore find also a gradation of 
spirituality. But all the devils are more spiritual, more 
detached from the natural world, than the mythological 
beings of the first category and than most of the souls, so 
that the substitution of the devil for the boginka, the night- 
mare, the vampire, etc., means an evolution from the 
naturalistic toward the spiritualistic religious system. 

The least spiritual are the local devils, who are more 
or less attached to particular places ruins, marshes, old 
trees, crossroads, etc. They are usually invisible, but can 
show themselves at will either in the form of animals (usually 
owls, cats, bats, reptiles, but also black dogs, rams, horses, 
etc.) or in a human or half -human body. Although popular 
imagination has naturally been influenced by the traditional 
mediaeval pictures of the devil and orthodoxly conceives 
them as representing the devil in his real form, still it has 
constructed for itself representations more adequate to the 
popular sense. The devil is represented as a little man 
in "German clothes" (fashion of the second half of the 
eighteenth century) with a small "goat's beard," small 
horns hidden under his hat; sometimes he has a tail and one 
horse- or goat-leg, as in the paintings. The local devil has 
nothing to do with the questions of temptation and salva- 
tion; he does not try to get any souls, but is a mischievous 
being who frightens the living and gets them into trouble, 



often merely in the way of a joke. Sometimes he has indeed 
a serious function to perform, for example, watching buried 
treasures, lest the living should get them; there is a real 
danger of life in searching for treasures, or for the fern 
flower which opens the eyes of the possessor and enables 
him to see the treasures under the earth. It is believed 
that these devils purify the treasures once a year with fire, 
and do it as long as the soul of the man who buried them 
does penance; after this, the devil ceases to watch the 
treasure and it can be found by the living. In this tale 
the local devil is already associated with the purgatory devil. 

The second class of devils are those who possess the 
living beings, men or animals. Possession is quite different 
from the assumption of a visible form. In the latter case 
we have to do with an apparition, but in the first with a 
natural thing in which the devil, himself invisible, dwells. 
The natural thing can be explicitly thought to have a soul 
besides the devil, or the matter of the soul may be left out 
of consideration. The devils who take possession of a per- 
son may be many three, five, seven. Not all of them are 
harmful ; some are good and useful to the possessed person 
as well as to others. And if we note that sometimes a wise 
woman is identified with a possessed one, we must conclude 
that the idea of possession, originating in the Christian 
mythology, was simply applied at a later time to phenom- 
ena which had a different meaning under the system of 

The third kind of devils are those who, while leading 
an independent existence outside of the natural world, are 
still mainly interested in matters of this world. According 
to the orthodox tradition their only aim ought to be tempting 
men in order to get them damned, but the peasant sometimes 
makes them play also the part of spirits with whom simple 
co-operation on the basis of reciprocity is possible, without 


involving damnation. They have supernatural powers, but 
they lack natural achievements, and this makes a co- 
operation fruitful for both sides. Thus, a devil may become 
the apprentice of a blacksmith or a miller and learn the trade 
while teaching his master supernatural tricks. In connec- 
tion with the witches, the devil wants to learn what is going 
on in the human community (for he is not all-knowing) 
while he bestows some of his own magical powers upon the 
witch. Or he gives the witch the means of getting an excep- 
tional quantity of milk, while she must bring him, for his 
unknown purposes, butter and cheese. Or he sows the 
field in company with a man, for he does not know agri- 
culture, but he can make the crops grow better, or he gives 
the man some money out of a hidden treasury. This is the 
type of devil with whom witches have sexual relations or 
* * who receives his friends at a weekly (sometimes monthy 


g > % or yearly) banquet on the top of the Lysa Gdra. 1 Of course 
^ vf tne m tive of damnation is very popular and important, 
* f* ^but its moral value is sometimes doubtful. The devil, 

J^ ,V 

^ ^ according to an explicit or tacit agreement, takes the soul 
<^ * ^ f a man as n * s own rewar d for some service, in the same way 
<& as m relations among men a poor peasant may become a 
^ % servant of his rich neighbor for a certain time to pay a 
Sf debt which he cannot pay in another way; there is often 
scarcely any idea of moral punishment. A man may even 
promise his child to the devil before the child is born. And 
it is here that the deviHs most often cheated, for at the last 
moment the man frequently gets rid of him by magical 
means. The idea of temptation, in this system of beliefs, 
does not mean "temptation to commit a sin," but tempta- 
tion to do business. And if the sin as such leads to hell, it 
is because of its magical influence, of the break of the magical 

1 "Bald Mountain," proper name applied now mainly to a mountain in the 
province of Kielce, but used also in other provinces in relation to local hills. 



solidarity with the heavenly powers and the establishment 
of a magical solidarity with the devil. The only sins to 
which the devil really instigates his followers are those which 
have immediately this magical consequence sacrilege, 
denial of the heavenly powers, recognition of the devil, 
and rites whose effect is to establish a magical affinity with 
him. On the other hand, we find also attitudes which pre- 
vail in the naturalistic system transferred to the spiritualistic 
one; the devil often appears on earth as well as in hell as 
an avenger of breaks of solidarity between men, or even 
between men and nature. He performs vicariously the 
functions which human society or nature are for some reasons 
unable to perform. 

The last class of devils are those who dwell permanently 
in hell and have almost no relation with nature or living 
men, except sometimes taking souls from the earth to hell. 
They torture the souls and endure punishment themselves 
for their revolt against God. 

The category of heavenly beings God, Jesus, the Holy 
Spirit, the Virgin Mary, the saints, and the angels are 
completely spiritualized. Any connection between them 
and actually existing natural beings, if it ever existed, has 
been forgotten. For example, heaven is identical with the 
skies and is God's dwelling-place, the thunder and lightning 
are manifestations of God's activity, etc., but there is not 
the slightest trace of any identity of God with those natural 

Naturally the theological problem of the Trinity seldom 
attracts the peasant's attention. The Holy Spirit has 
little importance, and is individualized only through the 
liturgical and popular prayers addressed to him and through 
his symbolization by the dove. God and Jesus are cer- 
tainly, in this system, dissociated beings, owing to the earthly 
life of Jesus. The names are often mixed, but the functions 


are sufficiently distinguished to allow us to consider God 
and Jesus as separate divinities in the eyes of the peasant. 

God's main attribute is magical power over things. 
This power is not limited by the nature of the things them- 
selves, and in this sense God may be called all-powerful; 
but it is limited by the magical power of the devil and even 
of man, although it is certainly greater. It may be used at 
any moment and with regard to any object, but it is not so 
used in fact; many phenomena go on without any divine 
influence. God directs the world when he wishes, but does 
not support it. The idea of creation is rather undetermined 
and does not play an important part in the peasant's 
mythology ; it is usually assimilated to workmanship. 

The divine power can be used for beneficent or harmful 
purposes without regard to properly moral reasons. It is 
qualitatively but not morally antagonistic to the devil's 
power. There is, of course, a certain principle in the harmful 
or beneficent activity of God; an explanation can be given 
of every manifestation of God's benevolence or malevolence. 
But this explanation has a magical, not a moral, character, 
even if it is expressed in religious and moral terms. God's 
attitude toward man (and toward nature as well) depends 
upon the magical relation which man by his acts establishes 
between God and himself. If the magical side of human 
activity or of natural things harmonizes with the tendencies 
of divine activity, the latter is necessarily beneficent, and 
it is necessarily harmful in the contrary case, that is, when- 
ever the acts of things are in harmony with the intentions 
of the devil. The main sins, therefore, are those against 
religious rites that is, all kinds of sacrilege and every 
other sin is termed as "offense of God," that is, assimilated 
to sacrilege. Therefore also magical church rites can destroy 
every sin, and it is enough to establish a relation of magical 
harmony with God in order to keep one's self and one's 



property safe from any incidental harm. But from this it 
results also that the consequences of the sin reach much 
farther than they should if the idea of just retribution were 
dominant; the magical estrangement from God extends 
itself over the whole future situation of the man and thus 
leads to eternal damnation if not made good by some con- 
trary act, and it may also extend itself over the man's 
milieu and bring calamities to his family, community, farm- 
stock, and even to his purely natural environment. 

Jesus, in this religious system, has the somewhat sub- 
ordinated position of a magical mediator between the divine 
power and man. He is the founder and keeper of the magi- 
cal rites by which man is put into a relation of harmony 
with God or defended against the devil. Accordingly it is 
Jesus who judges men's actions and personalities as har- 
monizing or not with God, and upon whom the lot of the 
soul after death mainly depends. He is somewhat more 
personalized than God, but he is also not a moral divinity; 
in his eyes the magical, not the moral, value of the act is 
always important. 

ity , helping always a.nd everybody hy_the way of miracles. 
In fact, she is the only divinity working miracles even now. 
For, although the whole activity of God and Jesus is super- 
natural, it does not break the normal order of things, because 
this normal order includes material as well as magical 
phenomena, or, more exactly, there are two coexisting orders, 
the material and the magical. The real miracle is therefore 
one that breaks both orders. Healing a sick person is only 
a magical action when sickness is a result of natural causes or 
of some spontaneous action of the devil or the witch, but 
it is a miracle when the sickness is a necessary consequence 
of sin, of a dissolution of the magical harmony between man 
and God. This is precisely the kind of miracles, besides 


simple magical actions, ascribed commonly to the Virgin 
Mary. She disturbs in favor of men the divine magical 
order itself; she saves men from the consequences of their 
sins in this world and even in the other. 

The saints have a more limited sphere of activity. Every 
saint has a special line along which he acts, usually benefi- 
cently, by modifying, through a supernatural influence, 
natural phenomena. Some saints, as, for instance, St. Fran- 
ciscus, give also magical help against the devil, but this 
is less frequent than help in natural difficulties. Thus, 
St. Anthony helps to find a lost article, St. Agatha to extin- 
guish a fire, etc. Every man's patron saint saves him in 
danger. Every parish has a patron saint who averts 
calamities from it; the day of this saint is a parish festival. 
There are patron saints of corporations, fraternities, cities, 
provinces. St. Stanislaus is the patron of Poland; St. Casi- 
mir, of Lithuania. 

The functions of the angels are rather undetermined. 
They have to fight against the devils, to praise God, to take 
human souls to paradise from the earth or from purgatory, 
to fulfil, according to their original meaning, errands of God. 
The guardian angel of every man watches over him, to keep 
him from natural and magical dangers, and defends his soul 
against the devil immediately after death. 

If we omit now all the intermediary stages between 
natural beings and spirits, atid take the spiritual world in 
its pure form as distinguished from the material world, we 
notice that there are two antagonistic spiritual communities 
divine and devilish. To the first belong also once and 
forever the souls of the saved, to the second the souls of the 
damned. Souls in purgatory are on the way between the 
two. These communities are connected, each separately, 
by a particular kind of solidarity which we can call magical, 
and they are opposed to each other also by a magical con- 


2 53- 

trariety. The living men belong partly to one, partly to 
the other community, and they pass from one to another 
according to the magical bearing of their acts. All other 
natural beings, animated or not, can also acquire a divine 
or a devilish magical character, but they are without excep- 
tion passive, objects, not subjects, of magical activity, 
although a spirit can enter into them and act through them. 
In this respect their role differs completely from the active 
one which they play in the naturalistic system. 

In order to understand this spiritual solidarity, we must 
analyze more closely the magical attitude, for this does not 
originate in the belief in spirits, but both have a common 
root from which they grow simultaneously. 

The common feature of the physical and the magical fact 
is that in both there is an action of one object upon another. 
Without this external influence the object is supposed not 
to change; and if change is already included in its nature, 
its formula remains the same. 1 Thus, when a body at rest 
is suddenly set in motion, physics and magic alike will 
explain it by the action of external forces. Even if it is an 
animated being, the movement will be explained either 
psychologically, by a motive which is ultimately referred 
to the external world, or physiologically, by an irritation of 
physiological elements whose ultimate source is also in the 
external world or by a magical influence. The system of 
magical interpretation is less complete and more immediately 
practical. It is applied to phenomena whose practical 
importance is perceived at once, consequently to those which, 
being to a certain extent more than ordinary, require some 
change in the habitual course of life. For example, puberty, 
sickness, and death require a magical explanation more 
insistently than the ordinary physiological functions, 

1 Magic applies this principle even more rigidly than physical science, for it 
seldom includes change in the definition of the object. 


sexual life more insistently than eating, eating more insist- 
ently than breathing. The phenomenon of snow is hardly 
explained magically by the Polish peasant, while hail and 
thunderstorm are very frequently referred to magical 

But this is only a difference of degree between the magi- 
cal and the physical systems. The difference of nature lies 
elsewhere. Magical action differs essentially from physical 
action in that the process by which one object influences 
another is given and can be analyzed in physical action, 
while in magical action it is not given and avoids analysis. 
There is a continuity between physical cause and physical 
effect; there is an immediate passage, without intermediary 
stages, between magical cause and magical effect. Thus, 
when a woman comes by night to her neighbor's stable and 
milks the cow; when a man in a fight strikes another a blow; 
when wind drives hail-clouds away; when crops rot in the 
field because of too much rain in all these cases the process 
of action of one thing upon another is known, or supposedly 
known, the cause and effect are connected with each other 
without any break of continuity, and we can analyze the 
process into as many stages as we wish. But when a witch, 
by milking a stick in her own house, draws the milk of her 
neighbor's cow into her own milk-pot; when by saying some 
formulae and burning some plants she causes headache to 
her distant enemy; when the first chapters of the Four 
Gospels, written down and buried at the four corners of a 
field, avert hail-clouds; when peas, sown during the new 
moon, never ripen, but blossom again every month until 
winter here between the cause and effect continuity is 
broken, the influence is immediate, we do not know any- 
thing about the process of action and we cannot analyze 
the passage between the state of one object and the state of 
another. Therefore we can, of course, modify in many ways 


a physical process, direct it by introducing various additional 
causes; but we can only abolish the magical influence 
destroy it, by introducing some determined contrary factors. 
This character of the magical relation explains the fact 
that most of those relations are., or rather appear to us to 
be, symbolical. This symbolism can assume different forms. 
Sometimes it is analogy between the supposed cause and 
the desired effect, as in the example of the witch milking a 
stick, or in the very general case when two bones of the bat, 
resembling respectively a rake and a fork, are used, the first 
to attract something desirable, the second to push away 
something undesirable. Sometimes, again, it is a part repre- 
senting the whole, as when some hairs or finger-nail parings 
of a man are used to harm or to heal through them the 
whole body, or when a rite performed upon a few grains 
taken from a field is supposed to affect the whole crop. Or 
an action performed upon some object is presumed to exert 
an influence upon another object which is or was in spatial 
proximity with the first, as when an object taken from the 
house or some sand from under the threshold is used to 
influence magically the house or its inmates. Succession 
in time, particularly if repeated, becomes often a basis of a 
magical connection; this is the source of many beliefs in 
lucky or unlucky phenomena. The connection between the 
word and the thing symbolized by it is, as we know, par- 
ticularly often exploited for magical purposes. The words 
exert an immediate influence upon reality, have a magical 
creative power. The relation of property is also assumed 
to be a vehicle of magical action; the owner is hit by magic 
exerted upon some object which belongs to him, and, re- 
ciprocally, by bewitching the owner it is possible to affect 
his property. Things often connected by some natural 
causality can be easily connected by a magical causality; 
food can be spoiled by bewitching the fire upon which it is 


cooked, the miller can arouse the wind by imitating its 
effect, that is, by turning the wings of the mill. The last 
example gives us a combination of two kinds of symbol- 
ism: by analogy and by the relation of (natural) cause 
to effect. Such combinations are very frequent in the 
more complicated kinds of magic, as when a witch, by 
sitting upon goose eggs, brings hail as big as those eggs, or 
when a consecrated host is put into a beehive in order to 
make the bees prosper. This last is a triple magical rela- 
tion : the words of the priest change the host into the flesh 
of Jesus; the particle represents the whole divinity; the 
supposed effect of religious perfection which the host 
exerts upon the soul of the man is transferred by analogy 
to the insects. 

Now in all these cases magical relation is supposed to 
exist among objects which are in some way already connected 
in human consciousness, so that one of them points in some 
way to the other, reminds one of it, symbolizes it. And we 
can easily understand that this is a necessary condition, 
without which it would be hardly possible to imagine the 
existence of a magical relation between two given objects. 
Indeed in physical causality we can follow the process of 
causation, and therefore (except in cases of error of observa- 
tion or reasoning) we know what effect a cause has or what 
is the cause of a given effect. But in magical causality the 
process is hidden, and there would therefore be no reason to 
think of a given fact A as being the cause or effect of a 
determined fact B rather than of any of the innumerable 
other facts which happen about this time if A and B had not 
been connected previously in the mind. Sometimes the 
facts are connected traditionally and the reason for this 
connection can no longer be determined, but whenever we 
see the reason it is always a symbolical relation of some of 
the types enumerated above. 



If, now, the magical causality existed alone, it would 
probably be considered natural, not supernatural. But it 
coexists, in the peasant's experience, with a multitude of 
cases of purely physical causality, including most of the 
common material phenomena, and ic becomes supernatural 
by antithesis to these, exactly as spirits become super- 
natural by antithesis to material beings. 1 And certainly 
the fact that most of the magic came to the peasant with 
Christianity and was already connected with spirits must 
have helped to develop this opposition between natural and 
supernatural causality. 

But the connection of magic with the spiritual beings is 
not merely the result of their common opposition to the 
material world. Magic contains in itself elements which, 
at a certain stage, make this connection necessary. Indeed, 
magical causality is by no means an instrument of theoreti- 
cal explanation but of practice; only such relations as are 
supposed to help to attain a desirable end or to avoid a 
danger are taken into consideration. Every magical rela- 
tion is therefore connected in some way more or less closely 
with the idea of the conscious intention of somebody who 
acts, who wants to apply it to a certain end. In many 
cases, even in a relatively primitive magic, intention is a 
necessary condition of causality. The witch who milks 
a stick must think at the same time of the woman whose 
cow she wants to deprive of milk, and it is her intention 
which directs the magical effect. It is also indispensable 
in all endeavors to convey sickness to direct the attention 
to the person whom one desires to harm. In searching for 
a hidden treasure harmful magical powers are neutralized 
if the digger has at this moment the intention (provisionally 

1 The antithesis is particularly evident when the same object exerts a natural 
and a magical effect. Thus, water naturally washes physical stains, but con- 
secrated water magically purifies an object from the devilish magical power. 


assumed) of giving the treasure to a church. And we know 
that in religious magic the use of consecrated objects can 
have its whole influence only if exerted with a determined 
intention and belief in its efficiency. There are certainly 
many cases in which the effect of a magical cause is pre- 
sumed to come mechanically, when the intention is not 
necessary to produce it. This happens when an object, 
amulet or talisman, has a permanent property of magical 
action, or when a magical effect is brought about inadvert- 
ently. But usually we find some intentional action in the 
beginning. Most of the amulets and talismans (when their 
action does not result from their own natural power, that is, 
when they are not members of the first, naturalistic, reli- 
gious system) have been at some moment intentionally 
endowed with magical powers; such are all the consecrated 
objects and many of those which the magicians and witches 
prepare. Most of the inadvertent actions have a magical 
influence because they are actions of conscious beings who, 
even if they have no explicit intention at the given moment, 
have a latent power of will, are capable of intentional influ- 
ence. By the usual association the inadvertent action is 
supposed to exert the same influence as the intentional 
action which it resembles, because the spiritual power, non- 
directed, takes the habitual channel. And even when there 
is no conscious action in the beginning, the peasant tends to 
suppose, more or less definitely, some kind of intention in 
every case of imprevisible good or bad luck which happens 
to him. In short, in every magical causation there is more 
or less of the conscious element completing the mechanical 
magical relation between cause and effect; there is always 
behind it somebody, man or spirit, and the object through 
which the action is exerted is here merely an instrument, 
not a spontaneously acting being, as in the naturalistic 


But there is a curious gradation of the part which con- 
sciousness plays in magical causality, which is also the basis 
of distinction between human and spiritual magic. In the 
ordinary ritualistic magic the intention is only one compo- 
nent of the magical action, more or less necessary, but sub- 
ordinated to the objective causal relation between visible 
phenomena the more so, the more complicated the rite. 
Its role is increased in the action by words, particularly 
when the words are not traditional formulae (to a great 
extent efficient by their mere sound and arrangement), but 
spontaneous expressions of an actual feeling or desire. The 
blessing or curse is efficient whatever its form, which proves 
that it is the intention, not the expression, which is essential. 
In the evil eye sometimes the visible act counts more, some- 
times the intention. In any case there is a marked dispro- 
portion between the physical act, trifling in itself, and its 
consequences. Evidently the "evil eye" has a magical 
influence only because it is a conscious being which looks, 
because in the eye spiritual powers are concentrated. But 
man can never exert a magical influence by consciousness 
alone, without the help of visible means. This is the privi- 
lege of the spirits who, when completely detached from 
nature, can act immediately by the magic of their will. 
Those who are intermediary between spirits and natural 
beings may sometimes need the help of visible rites. The 
devil who keeps hidden treasures cleans them with fire; local 
spirits and some of the lower devils can get a man into their 
power by holding any part of his body or his clothing, etc. 
But the more spiritualized and powerful devils and the 
heavenly spirits do not need anything for their magical 
action. And of course the whole practical importance of 
supernatural beings depends upon their ability to exert a 
direct magical influence by their mere will. If they were 
unable, to do this, they would not count at all, for, being 


detached from nature, they cannot act through material 
objects. In other words, the dissociation of mythological 
beings from the material world is possible only on the con- 
dition that those beings can influence this world by the 
magic of their will, and thus the magic of consciousness is 
the condition of the existence of spirits. For spirits without 
practical influence cannot exist in the popular mythology; 
their power is the measure of their reality. 

This magical power, which, among the spirits, God pos- 
sesses in the highest degree and of which the spirits in general 
have more than men, is nothing but the facility of producing 
magical effects. It is quite parallel with the "energy" of 
physics. The spirits and certain living men possess it from 
the beginning. Its manifestations can be directed and often 
checked at will. This is the case among higher beings, but 
among men it happens that the magical power tends to 
manifest itself even in opposition to the present conscious 
act of will. The case is exactly analogous to that of an 
"inborn" tendency to evil; the permanent direction of the 
will is stronger than an actual motive; the individual's 
nature is so bent upon exercising magical influence upon all 
objects which come within his sphere of action that he can 
only with difficulty refrain from exercising it upon some 
particular object. Thus, many persons who have the evil 
eye do harm even when they do not wish it and must use 
particular means in order to neutralize their power, for 
example, look upon their own nails before looking upon any 
object which may be harmed. Of the witches, in many 
localities the opinion prevails that they are more unhappy 
than guilty, that their magical power is either inherited or 
communicated to them by a curse of God (a curse, since 
their power is contrary to the divine power), and cases are 
even quoted in which a witch, unable or unwilling to harm 
her neighbors, exerted her influence aimlessly upon inani- 


mate objects, or even bewitched herself. But a person 
whose magic is of a higher quality, as, for example, a priest 
or a wise person who uses magical power only for good pur- 
poses, can use it or not, at will. 

This magical power can be communicated to men or 
things, and we can suppose that, as magical causation in- 
volves some degree of intention, all the magical powers of 
things are communicated to them by men or spirits, as they 
are in the Christian system. There is always some kind of 
consecration, actually performed or presupposed, explicitly 
or implicitly. Obviously we do not mean to say that the 
idea of consecration was in fact the historical origin of 
the magical powers ascribed to things, but only that in the 
magical system of the Polish peasant the magical power of 
things is actually believed to have originated always in some 
kind of a consecration. For example, there are innumerable 
legends in which the beneficent or maleficent magical powers 
of animals, plants, or stones are ascribed to a blessing or 
curse of God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the saints. If some 
animals are connected with the devil, it is not only because 
the devil used to appear in their form, but also because he is 
supposed to have endowed them with magical power; such 
are the snake, the cat, the owl, the peacock, the rat, black 
dogs, black goats, etc. In the same way it is the devil who 
communicates magical properties to the localities in which 
he resides, to many instruments which the witches use, to 
money, etc., and all the witches who are not born such are 
consecrated by the devil, or sometimes by other more power- 
ful witches. The consecration is, moreover, the more 
efficient the more powerful the consecrating man or spirit. 
The power of Christian amulets depends upon the position 
in the church hierarchy of the priest who consecrated them 
(ordinary priest, bishop, pope); the consecration of the 
witch by the devil is worth more than by another witch. 


The curse of a saint is more influential than that of an ordi- 
nary person. Thus, nobody in or from the town Gniezno 
can ever make a fortune since St. Adalbert cursed the town 
more than nine centuries ago. Numerous are the legends 
of towns, churches, castles which sank into the earth, of 
men turned into stone when cursed by priests, hermits, etc. 
But the magical power of spiritual beings when acting 
upon material objects must adapt itself to the immanent 
laws of magical causality in the same way as human 
technique must adapt itself to the laws of physical causality. 
The idea of consecration is used to explain magical powers 
of objects only within the limits of the symbolism of which 
we have spoken above. Thus, not every object can be con- 
secrated to every use, but each one by consecration acquires 
only a particular and determined power of action. For 
example, in Loreto consecrated bells are particularly adapted 
to avert thunderstorm, salt consecrated on the day of 
St. Agatha extinguishes fire, determined plants, when con- 
secrated, acquire a magical power against determined 
diseases, etc. Nowhere perhaps is this adaptation of spirits 
to the immanent laws of magical causality so evident as 
in the use of water. As we have said above, because 
water washes away material dirt, consecrated water, by an 
evident symbolism, purifies magically, that is, destroys the 
stamp which the devil put upon the objects, consecrating 
them to his own use. Hence water becomes the universal 
and dominant purificatory medium, as against fire in the 
naturalistic system. 1 Another good example of adaptation 
of the spirits to the laws of magic is found in the curse. The 
father's or mother's curse is particularly powerful because 
of the relation between parents and children; God must 
fulfil it. A priest has communicated to us that an old 

1 The use of fire in hell and, secondarily, in purgatory has a completely dif- 
ferent meaning; in hell, fire tortures without purifying. 



peasant confessed the cursing of his son as the most heinous 
sin of his whole life. The son went to the army and was 
killed, and in his confession the peasant said: "Why did I 
interfere with the business of God ? " He felt that God was 
obliged to see to it that the son was killed. 

We have already met more than once the problem of 
magical dualism. The belief in magical causation leads 
necessarily to the standpoint of a duality of contrary influ- 
ences. Indeed, whenever a magical action does not bring 
the intended result, the agent can only either deny the 
efficacy of the means used or suppose that the influence of 
the magical cause was neutralized by a contrary influence, 
the causation destroyed by an opposite causation. In physi- 
cal explanation a process of causation cannot be destroyed, 
but only combined with another process, because we can 
follow both in their development and their combination; 
but in magical explanation, as we have seen, the process of 
causation is not given, and when the effect does not come the 
causal relation must be assumed to be annihilated. 

Of course this opposition of contrary magical influences 
does not involve any absolute appreciation. From the 
standpoint of the subject who desires to attain a certain 
effect a magical influence favorable to this aim will be valued 
positively, an influence which destroys the first, negatively. 
But the appreciation changes with the change of the stand- 
point, and no magic can be termed good or evil in itself. 
There are, indeed, actions which bring harm and actions 
which bring benefit to other individuals or to the community 
as a whole, but in order to make this a basis of classification 
of magical actions the moral viewpoint must be introduced 
into magic and religion, and this is done only in the third 
religious system, which we shall analyze presently. Before 
this moralization of religion, actions performed with the 
help of magic can be useful or harmful, the person who 


performs them can be virtuous or wicked, but the magical 
power is neither good nor bad in itself. This is particularly 
evident if we remember that the same magical influence can 
be, according to circumstances, useful or harmful to the 
community or to the individual. The bringing or stopping 
of rain is a good example. Even directly harmful influences, 
such as those which bring sickness or death upon a man, can 
sometimes be useful to the community, when the harm is a 
punishment for a breach of solidarity. And if this is true 
of actions which have a determined result, it is the more true 
of magical powers which spirits, men, or things may possess, 
for these powers can be used for very different actions. 

We understand, therefore, that not even Christianity, 
in spite of its absolute opposition of God and devil, heaven 
and hell, was able to introduce at once the idea that there 
is a good magic and an evil magic, and that the magic of 
heavenly beings and of priests was good, all other magic evil. 
We do not raise here the question how consistently this idea 
was developed in Christianity itself. The peasant, standing 
on practical, empirical ground, could frequently not avoid 
the conclusion that the effects of divine magic can be disas- 
trous as well as beneficial, and that the devilish magic does 
not bring harm always, but may often be very useful. The 
ideas of reward and punishment in future life were hardly 
ever strong enough with the peasant to influence his choice 
in a decisive way, the less so as it was always possible to 
cheat God during life and the devil at the moment of death 
by accepting any good which might come from both sources 
as long as it was possible and by turning to God when 
nothing good could any longer be expected from the devil. 
This is the attitude which persists in most of the tales and 
in real life, in spite of some incidental, evidently imitated and 
formal, moralization. If God were alone against the devil, 
the influence of religion upon peasant life would be very 


equivocal. But the factor which, in spite of all this, makes 
the religious magical system so powerful as to direct the 
peasant's attitudes in all the important events of his life 
is the above-mentioned magical solidarity of all the divine 
beings, on the one hand, and all the devilish beings, on the 
other. This solidarity consists, not in an essential opposi- 
tion between the two magics as such, but in the fact that 
the magical action of any divine being always supports and 
corroborates the magical action of all the other divine beings 
and is always opposed to the magical action of any devilish 
being; the same is true of the devilish community. On this 
basis, when a man acts in harmony with the divine com- 
munity he is assured of the protection of this whole com- 
munity, because he becomes its member, while by a single 
action supporting the tendencies of the devilish community, 
he becomes indeed a member of the latter, but makes all 
the divine beings his enemies. 

The choice between these communities will depend upon 
three factors : First, the number and the concreteness of the 
divinities belonging to them respectively. In this regard 
the devilish community had a decided superiority in the 
beginning, when the church itself put all the pagan mytho- 
logical beings, numerous and concrete, into the same class 
with the devils; the influence of this rich and plastic world 
must have been, and was indeed for a long time, stronger 
than that of the poorer and relatively pale community of 
heavenly beings. This, more than anything else, accounts 
for the long persistence of the devilish mythology and rites. 
But gradually the heavenly pantheon increased in number 
and concreteness; many local saints were added to it, 
legends grew up about them, their graves preserved a magi- 
cal power, churches consecrated to them perpetuated their 
memory and made them familiar and plastic divinities. 
With the development of reading, lives of the saints became 


a favorite topic; and before this their lives were related by 
priests, amulet-peddlers, pilgrims, etc. In this way many 
foreign saints became known and worshiped. The Virgin 
Mary, whose cult came down from the higher classes to the 
peasant, became through the many churches, miracles, and 
legends one of the most powerful divinities. Particular 
legends connected God, Jesus, Mary, the saints, and the 
angels with the familiar environment of the peasant, and 
most of them were adapted to Polish life and nature and 
bear thus a distinctly local character. Finally, art in all 
its forms painting, sculpture, music, architecture, poetry- 
contributed in an incalculable measure to make all the 
beings of the heavenly pantheon concrete and alive. Of 
course the hell-pantheon grew also, but its growth was less 
extensive and was decreased by a loss in number and con- 
creteness of the pagan mythological beings. 

The second reason for choosing the divine rather than 
the devilish community is that of their relative power. In 
this respect the church has also done very much to increase 
the power of the heavenly world as against hell, even if the 
latter is not too much minimized, in view of other considera- 
tions of which we shall speak presently. We notice, for 
example, that the pagan mythological beings assimilated to 
the devil have a rather limited sphere of activity. The 
most important natural phenomena sunshine and thunder, 
summer and winter, birth and death, extraordinary cata- 
clysms and extraordinarily good crops, war and peace, etc. 
are as far as possible ascribed to God. We have already 
spoken of the power of Mary as manifested in her miracles, 
and of the patron saints to whom most of the more usual 
phenomena of social and individual life are subordinated. 
Jesus, whose main function is to attract men to the divine 
community, to defend them against the devil and to give 
them up to him if they are stubborn is always shown as a 


more powerful magician than the devil. The angels are 
always depicted as victorious against the devils in direct 
struggle. Finally, the decision of the lot of the human soul 
after death belongs mainly to the heavenly community, 
because Jesus, if he wishes, can always take the soul away 
from the devil on the basis of a single good deed, and after 
paying its due to the devil in purgatory the soul can reach 
paradise, while the devil cannot take a saved soul into hell. 
But another tendency of the church in the same line did 
not succeed quite so well. The objects to which divine 
magical powers were communicated by consecration and 
which were to help man to attain influence over the spirits 
and over nature ought to belong also exclusively to the 
divine order, ought to bear such a magical character as 
would make them by themselves useful only to the members 
of the divine community and harmful to the devil. Here 
belong, for example, the localities and instruments of divine 
service, amulets, holy water, consecrated wafers, etc. But 
this idea implies the distinction between good and evil 
magical powers, and therefore the endeavor of the church 
failed. The use of objects consecrated by the church could 
be made in the favor of the devilish as well as of the divine 
community, according to the intention of the person who 
used them. Sometimes it was necessary, indeed, to use 
them in a perverse way in order to attain results favorable 
to the devilish community, especially in cases where the 
long use for divine ends had evidently imparted to these 
objects a certain incompatibility with the world of the devil. 
We find this attitude in such facts as the saying of prayers 
backward, crossing with the left hand and in the contrary 
direction, etc. But very often consecrated objects can be 
used at once for devilish purposes. Every witch or magi- 
cian tries to get hosts, church candles, consecrated earth, 
water, oil, or salt, fringes from church banners, etc., for 


magical purposes; sometimes even the devil asks them to 
get such objects. A candle put before the altar with certain 
rites and a determined intention had the same magical 
effect as a waxen image of the person whom the witch 
wanted to kill; the person was consumed with sickness and 
died while the candle was gradually burned away during 
divine service. A piece of clothing put upon the organ 
caused insufferable pains to the person to whom it belonged, 
whenever the organ was played. The churches, cemeteries, 
crosses, and chapels erected upon the roads or in the fields 
are places near which devilish forces are supposed to reside ; 
one of the means of calling the devil is to walk, with cere- 
monies, nine times around a cross or chapel. 

But of course the fact itself that the church was in actual 
possession of so many objects endowed with magical power 
increased enormously, not only its influence, but the influ- 
ence of the divine community of which it was a part and 
which it represented. The political supremacy of the church 
made it impossible for the devilish community to have as 
many magical things at its service. One of the meanings 
of sacrilege, which all the witches and magicians feel morally 
obliged to perform whenever they can, is to destroy the 
magical power of consecrated objects and to weaken in this 
way the church and the divine community. 

In trying thus to increase the divine powers at the 
expense of the devil the church went still farther and tried 
to introduce the idea that whatever the devil does he does 
only by God's permission, that God leaves to him volun- 
tarily a certain sphere of activity. But this idea seems to 
have been assimilated by the peasant rather late and only 
in connection with the religious system which we next treat, 
for the church itself apparently contradicted it by making 
all possible efforts to ascribe useful phenomena to the effects 
of divine magic, all harmful phenomena to the devil. This 


last distinction, the beneficent character of the divine as 
against the maleficent character of the devilish community, 
became the third great factor helping to the victory of the 
divine community in the consciousness of the peasant. But 
to the unsophisticated peasant mind it seems evident that 
the devil must have some power of his own in order to do 
as much harm as the church tries to lay upon him if God is 
to be conceived as an essentially beneficent being. The 
omnipotence of God had to be sacrificed to save his good- 
ness, though the latter was as yet only practical, not moral, 
goodness. And, even so, it was impossible to establish at 
once on the magical ground an absolute opposition between 
God as source of all good and the devil as source of all evil ; 
the contrast could be only relative. As we have seen, 
harm and benefit brought by magical actions are relative 
to the subject and to the circumstances. The first and 
indispensable limitation of the principle was necessitated 
by the duality of the religious world itself; only those who 
belonged to the divine community could be favored by the 
good effects of divine magic, or else there would be no par- 
ticular reason for belonging to this community. But in 
that case the good which "the servants of the devil" 
experienced must have come from the devil, not from God. 
And some of the evil which befell the members of the divine 
community must have come from God, or else, if it came 
only from the devil, many men would be moved rather by 
the fear of the devil's vengeance than by the attraction of 
the divine gifts. All this was admitted, but the Christian 
teaching succeeded in partly overcoming the difficulty with 
the help of the contention that the good which the devil 
offered to his believers was not a real good and the evil 
which God sent down upon his servants was not a real 
evil. The good given by the devil turned ultimately to evil, 
sometimes only in the next world but often even in the 


present one. And the evil sent by God, if man did not lose 
his faith and did not turn to the devil, was sooner or later 
rewarded by a greater good. In short, the heavenly com- 
munity proved true with regard to its human members, 
while in the hell community they were cheated. An inter- 
esting expression of this belief is found in many tales. In 
these it is the theatrical contrast between appearance and 
reality which suddenly discloses itself to men in their rela- 
tions with the divine as well as with the devilish world. Any 
trash given to a man by some member of the first turns 
into gold; apparent calamities sent by heaven prove to be a 
source of happiness; divinities in human form behave 
apparently in the most absurd or cruel way and disclose 
afterward the wisdom and benevolence of their acts. On 
the contrary, devilish gold becomes trash, devilish food, 
seemingly the finest possible, is in reality composed of the 
most disgusting substances, the splendor and beauty with 
which the devil or his servants appear to men change into 
the utmost poverty and ugliness. Even if this tendency to 
lower the value of the hell community is not completely 
successful, it is not without its influence. The great resource 
of the church in inculcating the belief that the devil is ulti- 
mately harmful was, of course, the conception of future life. 
All the pictures of future life in hell, without exception, 
represent the devil as torturing the souls. The Christian 
teaching had probably no contrary ideas to combat or to 
assimilate in the sphere of the representations of the human 
soul's existence after death, since in the naturalistic system 
there were no souls. 

The whole evolution of the divine community, the growth 
of the number, concreteness, power, and benevolence of the 
heavenly beings, resulted finally in an actual state of things 
in which the importance of divine magic is incomparably 
greater in practice than that of devilish magic. While the 



first -still pervades the whole life of the peasant, is an in- 
dispensable component of all his practical activity, the 
second is mostly degraded to an "old women's stuff," not 
disbelieved, but unworthy of a real man's occupation; it is 
used only incidentally, except for a few individuals, and is 
more a matter of credulous curiosity than a part of the 
business of life. It still exerts an attraction, but this attrac- 
tion itself is due to its abnormal character, and evidently 
when an attitude comes to be considered as abnormal it is 
no longer socially vital. 

This concerns of course only the intentional magical 
activity of men; it is the voluntary alliance with the devil 
which is rare. But the magical importance of the devil 
himself within the whole magical system still remains great 
enough to make the question of belonging to the community 
of God or of the devil the main religious problem. Indeed 
it is not only by voluntary and conscious choice that men 
can become members of the devil's community; every act 
which is as such contrary to the divine solidarity, every 
"sin," if not expiated, causes a temporary or durable exclu- 
sion of the man from the community of heaven and auto- 
matically makes him a member of the community of hell. 
The man passes many times during his life from one com- 
munity to the other, not because he does not want to be a 
member of the divine world, but because the limitations and 
the duties which this membership imposes upon him are 
numerous and difficult to keep. 

The devilish community, in this magical religious system, 
is an indispensable condition of the existence of the divine 
solidarity itself. In the naturalistic system the aim of the 
solidarity of natural beings was the struggle against death. 
Here the magical solidarity of the heavenly world has its 
only reason in the fight against the world of hell. The aim 
of the whole heavenly community, from God down to the 


humblest saved soul, is to attract as many new members 
as possible from among the living and to own as much as 
possible of the material world. But as the hell community 
wants the same for itself, the struggle goes on. At the 
same time both communities, exactly like any human com- 
munity, want only true members, such as do not destroy 
the harmony of the whole; they therefore exclude those 
who are not solidary. The heavenly community is more 
difficult in this respect, probably because it does not need 
new members as much as hell; but neither does the devilish 
community accept new members without selection. In 
tales and legends there are cases in which the devils drive 
away untrue members. In magical pacts with the devil 
the man must be consistent, and, for example, any mention 
of Jesus or the saints may lead to a terrible punishment. 
There are men whom neither heaven nor hell wants. Pur- 
gatory is not a mere place of punishment, but also a prepara- 
tory stage for heaven, making the souls eager and likely to 
be true members of the heavenly group. 

The material world is also an object of contest. The 
heavenly beings as well as the devils want to appropriate, 
in the name of their respective groups, as many material 
objects as they can. We may say that the material world, 
with regard to the magical communities, plays the same 
part as property with regard to the family. It is perhaps 
not the basis, but at any rate one condition of the existence, 
of the group. It gives a dwelling-place, and we must re- 
member that in this respect the devil was wronged at the 
beginning. It gives, as we have seen, the means of extend- 
ing the power of the community among men who can act 
magically only with the help of material objects, and it is 
therefore important to give into the hands of the living 
adherents as many magical instruments as they can handle. 
Finally and this point is not very clear the spirits, at 



least the souls, seem to need natural food and clothing; it 
is difficult to say whether this conception is only a vestige 
of the belief of regeneration after death or belongs to the 
magical religious system itself. 

The character of the priest and the witch (or magician) 
within this system can be easily determined from what has 
been said. They are persons who by divine or devilish 
consecration have acquired a magical power superior to 
that of ordinary men, or sometimes they became priest or 
witch because they originally possessed this power hi a 
higher degree. At the same time they have a knowledge 
of the world of spirits and of the means of magical action 
which was communicated to them partly by the spirits 
themselves, partly by other priests or witches. The priest 
"knows all the things, present, past or future"; the witch 
has perhaps a less extensive knowledge, but with regard to 
the devil and devilish magic she knows even more than the 
priest. With regard to their knowledge the functions of 
the priest and of the witch do not differ much from those 
of the wroz or mqdra, except that there the object of knowl- 
edge was nature, here it is the supernatural world. But 
from the superior magical power of the priest and the witch 
result new functions. As technically trained and efficient 
specialists, they take the place of the ordinary men wherever 
strong magical action is necessary; their own power is added 
to the power of the magical instruments and they can attain 
with the latter more important results than the layman. 
At the same time they are intermediaries between the pro- 
fane, natural life and the magical, supernatural powers. 
The magical power as such is undetermined; it may have 
any incalculable effect, and for anybody who has not 
power enough himself it is dangerous to manipulate objects 
and rites endowed with power, because he cannot efficiently 
direct their action. The priest and the witch can do this 


because their will, their intention, has more magical influence 
by itself than the will of ordinary men, devoid of the same 

Finally, the priest and the witch are permanent members 
of the respective communities (the priest can scarcely ever 
go to hell, the witch to heaven), and in this character they 
are intermediaries between the layman and the community 
which they represent. But this function is not necessarily 
limited to the official representatives of heaven or hell; a 
holy man, without being a priest, a possessed person, with- 
out being a witch, can play the same part. It consists in 
helping the respective communities to get new members or 
in rejecting those who are harmful, and hi helping laymen to 
become active members of the magical groups. 

The influence of this whole magical religious system 
upon the peasant's life-attitudes was very durable and of a 
great, mainly negative, importance. The belief in imme- 
diate, magical causality, inculcated for nine centuries by 
those whom the peasant always regarded as his intellectual 
superiors and applied to all the important matters of human 
existence, developed a particular kind of credulity with 
regard to the effects which may be expected from any inci- 
dents, things, or men outside of the ordinary course of life. 
Anything may happen or not happen ; there is no continuity, 
consequently no proportion, between cause and effect. Out 
of this a feeling of helplessness develops. The peasant 
feels that he lacks any control of the world, while he has 
been accustomed to think that others have this control to 
an almost unlimited degree. He has no consciousness of 
the limitations of power of those who are his intellectual 
superiors and whom he does not understand, and he ascribes 
to somebody the responsibility for anything that happens. 
His only weapon in these conditions is cunning apparent 
resignation to everything, universal mistrust, deriving all 



the benefit possible from any fact or person that happens 
to come under his control. 

3. The third type of religious system is purely Christian, 
contains no pagan elements except ceremonies which the 
church has assimilated and christened. It has attained its 
full development recently, and certain of its consequences 
began to manifest themselves only a few years ago. Its 
basis is the idea of a moral unity of the human society, under 
the leadership of the priest, with a view to the glory of God 
and to the benefit of men, in conformity with the divine law 
and with the help of the divine world. The mythological 
beings are nominally the same as in the preceding system, 
but the attitudes are completely different, often contrary, 
and this obliges us to treat this system as a different religion. 

In practice the corresponding attitudes of the peasant 
have originated mainly in the parish life, and of course 
the church is their initiator. The parish is a kind of great 
family whose members are united by a community of moral 
interests. The church building and the cemetery (originally 
always surrounding the church) are the visible symbol and 
the material instrument of this unity. It is the moral 
property of the parish as a whole, managed by the priest. 
We say "moral property," because economically it does not 
belong, in the eyes of the peasant, to any human individual 
or group; it is first God's, then the saint's to whom it is 
dedicated. The priest manages it economically also, not 
as a representative of the parish, however, but only as 
appointed by God. This explains why in America the 
Poles so easily agreed in earlier times to have their churches 
registered as property of priests or bishops, not of the con- 
gregations who had built them. It was not a question of 
ownership, but a mere formality concerning management. 
Gradually, however, they became accustomed to the idea 
that churches can be treated as economic property, but up 


to the present certain consequences of the American stand- 
point, such as the sale of a church, appear in some measure 
as sacrilege. The claim of the parish to the church as 
moral property consists in the right of the group to guard 
the religious destination of the church. The latter cannot 
be used for any other ends than those which are involved 
in the religious life of the group meetings, parish festivals, 
dispensation of sacraments, burials, etc. Any use of the 
church building and its surroundings for any profane ends 
whatever is not only contrary to the magical character of 
these objects, but is a profanation of their social sacredness, 
an injury done to the parish-group. On the other hand, it 
is a moral duty of the latter to make the church as fit as 
possible for its religious and social purposes, and no sacrifice 
is spared in order to fulfil this duty. There is a striking 
contrast between the poverty of the peasants' private 
houses and the magnificence of many a country church. 
Building and adorning the church is one of the manifestations 
and the most evident symbol of the solidary activity of the 
parish for the glory of God. At the same time a beautiful 
church satisfies the aesthetic tendencies of the peasant, 
gives an impressive frame for religious meetings, and 
strengthens the feeling of awe and the exaltation which all 
the religious ceremonies provoke. 

The moral rights and duties of the parish with regard 
to the church originate thus exclusively in the functions 
which are performed in the church. The most important 
events of individual, familial, and communal life occur 
there, at least partly; all the essential changes which happen 
within the parish-group are sanctioned there; the relations 
of the group with the highest powers are identified with this 
place; moral teaching, exhortation, condemnation, are re- 
ceived in the church. In short, the most intense feelings 
are connected with the place, which is therefore surrounded 



with a nimbus of holiness, is an object of awe and love. 
Its sacred and familiar character is still stronger because 
it was in the same sense a center and symbol of moral unity 
with the preceding generations, since, as far as the peasant's 
tradition reaches, his fathers and forefathers had met in 
the same place, their bodies had been buried around it, 
their souls might return there on All-Souls' Day and cele- 
brate divine service. And after the present generation 
their children and grandchildren will meet there also "up 
to the end of the world," with the same feelings toward 
those now living as the latter have toward the preceding 
generations. We understand, therefore, what the peasant 
loses when he emigrates, why he moves unwillingly from 
one parish to another and always dreams of going back in his 
old age and being buried in the land of his fathers. We 
understand also why the matters concerning the parish 
church are so important and so often mentioned in letters. 
The divine service, at which all the parishioners meet, 
is the main factor in the moral unity of the group. We 
have already mentioned, when speaking of the peasant's 
social environment, the importance of meetings for the 
primary unorganized group. At this stage it is almost the 
only way for a group to have consciousness of its unity. 
Now in the religious meeting, during the divine service, the 
group is unified, not only by the mere fact of its presence in 
one place, but also by the community of interests and 
attitudes, and this community itself has particular features 
which distinguish it from any other form in which the 
solidarity and self -consciousness of the group are elaborated. 
When a primary group meets incidentally, it is not deter- 
mined beforehand what interests among all those which its 
members have in common will become the center of atten- 
tion, and what attitudes among all those which are the same 
in all or in most of its members will be unanimously 


expressed. Even if the meeting is arranged with regard 
to a determined practical problem, and if thus a certain 
common interest is presupposed, the attitude which the 
members will take with regard to the problem is not formally 
predetermined, even if it may be foreseen. The conscious 
unity of the group is therefore mostly produced anew during 
every meeting does not antedate the meeting itself. But 
the religious unity of the parish not its administrative 
unity, of which we do not now speak depends upon the 
meetings; the conscious community of interests and 
attitudes is kept alive only by the common assistance at 
the religious service. And for each particular meeting this 
community is predetermined; the center of interest is 
known beforehand, and the attitudes can be only of a 
definite kind and direction. This is made possible by the 
ceremonial. Every ceremony performed by the priest 
before the congregation has not only a magical meaning 
(through which it belongs to the preceding magical religious 
system) but also a social and moral tendency; it symbolizes 
a certain religious idea of a type which we shall analyze 
presently, and it makes this idea the center of interest of the 
present group. The response of the latter is also embodied 
in ceremonial acts in gestures, songs, schematized prayers 
and those acts symbolize and provoke definite attitudes 
common to all the members. This goes so far that even 
the sermons, with their varying contents, and the process 
of listening to a sermon are objects of a certain ceremonial, 
to some extent spontaneously evolved, non-liturgical. The 
gestures and intonations of the priest are performed accord- 
ing to an unwritten code. The congregation reacts to them 
in a determined way by gestures, sighs, sometimes even 
exclamations. A priest who does not know how to use this 
unofficial ritual can never be an influential preacher. Thus, 
through a series of successive meetings, the ceremonial 



maintains a continuity of group interests and attitudes, 
which without it could be attained only by a perfect 

Besides the general meetings of the whole parish on 
Sundays and holidays there are partial meetings of an 
undetermined number of members on other occasions- 
mass on week days; evening prayers and singing on holiday 
eves; service during May in honor of Mary; service during 
December, preparatory to Christmas; prayers and songs 
during Lent commemorating the sufferings of Jesus and 
inciting to contrition; common preparation for the Easter 
confession; adoration of the Holy Sacrament during the 
week after Corpus Christi Day, etc. Whoever lives near 
enough and has leisure tries to assist at these meetings. In 
more remote villages small groups of people gather on 
winter evenings and sing in common half -popular, half- 
liturgical songs on religious subjects. The after-Christmas 
songs are called Kolenda and concern the coming of Christ; 
those during Lent are called Gorzkie zale, "bitter regrets," 
in remembrance of the Passion. In almost every parish 
there are religious associations and fraternities whose aim 
is a particular kind of worship, such as the adoration of the 
Holy Sacrament, the worship of Mary or some saint, common 
recital or singing of the rosary. They have a determined 
part to perform during each solemn divine service; they 
cultivate religious song and music. Some of them have also 
humanitarian and practical ends the care of the sick and 
poor, help to widows and orphans, funeral and dowry 
insurance. These last functions are performed mainly by 
fraternities in towns; in the country, where familial and 
communal solidarity is stronger, the necessity for philan- 
thropy and organized mutual help is less felt. All of these 
meetings and associations, composed mainly, but not 
exclusively, of women and elderly men, are under the 


direction and control of the priest, even if he does not 
always actually preside. 

It is easy to understand how powerfully this intense 
religious life operates in developing the unity of the parish. 
On other, more extraordinary, occasions the members of the 
parish get into an immediate touch with other religious con- 
gregations. Such occasions are festivals, celebrated once 
a year in every parish, where all the people from the neigh- 
borhood gather; religious revivals, organized usually by 
monks; visitation by the bishop; festivals during the 
consecration of a new church, an image, etc. ; priest jubilees; 
pilgrimages to miraculous places. The last assume a great 
importance in the peasant's life when they are made col- 
lectively, often by hundreds of people, under the leadership 
of the priest. Hundreds of such "companies" come every 
year to such places as Czestochowa, Vilno (Ostra Brama), 
and many localities of minor importance. Some people 
take part in pilgrimages to Rome, Lourdes, even Jerusalem; 
many a man or woman economizes for many years in order 
to be able to make such a pilgrimage. 

In cases of extraordinary calamities which befall the 
parish (drought, long rains, epidemics) the priest organizes 
a special divine service with solemn processions, carrying 
the Holy Sacrament through or around the parish, etc. 

But even individual or familial occurrences give an 
opportunity for religious meetings. Every christening, 
wedding, or funeral is attended by numerous members of the 
community, and the occasion itself, as well as the corre- 
sponding ceremonial, arouses in all the assistants the con- 
sciousness of an identity of interests and attitudes. 

The meetings are the most powerful factor of the moral 
unity of the parish, but not the only one. All the members 
of the group in their individual religious and moral life, as 
far as this life is regulated by the church, are also obliged 


to manifest the same interests and attitudes. They must, 
all alike, go to confession and communion, perform the same 
duties with regard to the church, behave more or less 
identically in their relations with the priest; they ask for 
his advice, listen to his remonstrances; they say the same 
prayers on the same occasions, use the same consecrated 
objects, perform the same traditional ceremonies in the 
familial circles, greet one another by the same religious 
formulae, read the same religious books, etc. In short, 
they have in common a vast sphere of attitudes imposed by 
the church, and they are conscious of this community even 
outside of religious meetings in their personal relations of 
every day. This makes the unity of the parish still closer 
and more persistent. At the same time this unity is dis- 
tinguished from that which is due merely to social opinion 
by the fact that its form and content are equally fixed and 
imposed by the superior power of the church. To be sure, 
any phenomenon belonging to the religious sphere can also, 
at any moment, become the object of social opinion; the 
religious sphere is a part of the peasant's social environment, 
but it is its most fixed part. The parish in the religious 
sense of the term is, indeed, not an organized group like a 
commune or an association; it does not function as a 
unique group within the social world in a steady and 
determined way; we cannot speak of the functions of a 
parish. But the attitudes of its members which constitute 
its unity are relatively independent of the fluctuations of 
social opinion and are embodied in stable symbols, and in 
this sense this part of the peasant's social environment rises 
above the level of the primitive community and popular 
tradition, is an intermediary stage between the community 
and the higher, organized group of the church. 

The central object of the religious attitudes of the parish 
is the glorification of God and the saints by acts of worship. 


God becomes for the religious consciousness of the peasant 
the supreme lord and master of the human community; 
the saints, its guardians, intercessors, and* models of per- 
fection. The difference between this conception and the 
one which we find in the preceding system is quite essential. 
There the function of the spirits is magical; here it is moral 
and social. There man, by the magical bearing of his acts, 
becomes a member of a spiritual community; here the 
spirit, by the moral character which is ascribed to it, becomes 
incorporated into the human community, and social wor- 
ship is the form which this incorporation assumes. A char- 
acteristic expression of this difference is found in the fact 
that, while in the magical system Jesus is subordinated to 
God, in the moral system he takes the place of God. The 
name of Jesus is incomparably more frequently used as that 
of the spiritual head of human society than the name of God. 
This is of course the result of the half-human personality of 
Jesus, which makes his incorporation into the human com- 
munity much more easy and natural. 

As the mythology is almost identical in both systems, 
the difference is evidently based upon practical attitudes. 
It is not a pre-existent theoretical conception of the magical 
nature of the spiritual world which makes the man use magic 
in his religious life, but the use of magic which causes the 
spiritual world to be conceived as a magical community. 
In the same way the source of worship is not a theoretical 
conception of the divinity as spiritual leader of the com- 
munity, but the practice of worship, gradually elaborated 
and fixed in the complex ceremonial, is the origin of the 
social and moral functions of the divinity. 

We have seen that in the magical system the magical 
bearing of human acts has been extended from those which 
are intentionally performed to produce a determined magical 
effect to the whole sphere of human activity, so that there 


is hardly any action which is magically indifferent. The 
same happens in the moral system. The idea of worship 
does not remain limited to the ceremonial practices, but is 
extended to all human actions which have a moral value 
in the eyes of the community. God (Jesus) as the lord of 
the community is interested in its harmony, and thus 
every act which helps to preserve the harmony becomes at 
the same time an act of worship. Altruistic help, peda- 
gogical and medical activity, maintaining of concord in the 
community, spreading general and religious instruction, 
become religiously meritorious. By a further extension 
every contribution to the material welfare of men by licit 
means is willed by God (Jesus), even the good management 
of one's own property. Further still, Jesus is glorified also 
by anything which helps to maintain a teleological and 
aesthetic order in the natural environment of men agri- 
cultural work, raising and feeding domestic animals, adorn- 
ment of houses, establishment of orchards and flower 
gardens, etc. Partly perhaps under the influence of the 
church, but more probably in a spontaneous way^ thanks 
to the old idea of the natural solidarity and animation of 
natural objects, the idea arose that the whole of nature, 
even the meanest natural beings, glorify God by their life 
as men do. Unnecessary destruction is therefore forbidden 
in this system as well as in the naturalistic one, although the 
subordination of nature to human ends is incomparably 
greater since only man glorifies God in the prescribed way, 
only man has an immortal soul, and it is for man that 
Christ died. 

As against this moral organization of the human com- 
munity under the spiritual leadership of Jesus and the saints, 
the devil and devil-worship assume for the first time a 
distinctly evil character; they are not only harmful but 
immoral. The reason for this is evident. There is no 


human community which would enter into the same relation 
with the devil that the parish enters into with God; the 
relation with the devil is individual and lacks social sanction 
and social ceremonial. The opposition between the divine 
and the devilish world is thus associated with the opposition 
between social and individual religious life, and both op- 
positions acquire through this association a new character 
and a new strength. The divine world becomes socially 
acknowledged, a positive social value; the devilish world 
is socially despised, a negative social value. The worship of 
God is meritorious, official, and organized; the worship of 
the devil illicit, secret, and incidental. A man who serves 
God is a good member of the community, trying to be in 
harmony with his group; a man who serves the devil is a 
rebel, trying to harm his fellow-citizens. Since every 
socially moral action is subordinated to the glorification of 
God, and since there is an essential opposition between God 
and the devil, every socially immoral action is conceived as 
serving the devil. 1 

It is only in the latter sphere, in things subordinated to 
the devil, that magical action keeps most of its old character, 
precisely because this sphere, becoming secret and individual, 
did not undergo the same evolution as the sphere of divine 
things. In the latter, actions whose meaning in the magical 
system consisted in bringing immediately and mechanically 
a determined effect become now acts of worship, and their 
old effect is now conceived as a divine reward, as conscious 
action of the divinity moved by human worship. It is no 

1 Naturally the devil, thrown out of social life, has lost still more of his old 
importance. Whatever he does, he does it by God's permission; God allows him 
to tempt men in order to give them the merit of victory. But even temptation 
becomes rare. The peasants have a curious explanation of this fact. God does 
not allow the devils to tempt men as much as they did before, because men have 
grown so evil themselves that if the devil could use all his power no man could be 
saved. The women are a little better, and therefore they are more subject to 
temptation and see the devil more frequently. 



longer the letter, but the meaning of the prayer and the 
religious feeling which accompanies it that influence God 
or the saint; it is the confidence in, and the love of, God, 
manifested by the use of consecrated objects, that compel 
God to grant the men what they need when they are using 
those objects. 

Only human magic, however, has changed its significance. 
The magical power of God remains the same. God's action 
still exerts an immediate influence upon the material world. 
But now he is supposed to exert his power with a view to the 
moral order which he wishes to maintain in the world, not 
in the interests of the heavenly community; his activity be- 
comes altruistic, while in the magical system it was egoistic. 

The role of the priest is modified in the same way. 
From a magician he becomes a father of the parish, a 
representative of God (Jesus) by maintaining the moral 
order, a representative of the parish by leading the acts of 
common worship. From his representation of Jesus results 
his superior morality, implicitly assumed wherever he acts, 
not as a private individual, but in his religious, official 
character. Therefore also his teaching, his advice, his 
praise or blame, whenever expressed in the church, from the 
chancel, or in the confessional, are listened to as words of 
Jesus, seldom if ever doubted, and obeyed more readily than 
orders from any secular power. This influence is extended 
beyond the church and manifests itself in the whole social 
activity of the priest, though there it loses some of its power, 
since it is not quite certainly established by the peasants 
whether the priest outside of the church is still in the same 
sense a representative of Jesus. On the other hand, from 
the fact that the priest is the representative of the parish in 
acts of worship it results that all his religious actions are 
supposed to be performed in the name of the community, and 
he is socially bound to perform them conscientiously and 


regularly. In general, the greater the role of the priest, the 
greater is his responsibility and the more required from him 
in the line of moral and religious perfection. In later 
volumes we shall have the opportunity of studying more in 
detail the role which the priest plays in peasant society 
because of his place in the moral-religious system. For 
this system is now decidedly the dominating one. Natural- 
ism survives only in fragmentary beliefs and practices and 
in a general attitude toward nature, whose real meaning is 
already in a large measure forgotten. The magical system 
is still strong, and the influence which it has exerted upon 
the peasant psychology can hardly be overestimated. But 
it is no longer developing, no new elements are added to it 
and in fact it is rapidly declining. 

The fourth system, that of individual mysticism, whi 
we shall presently define, is still rare among the peasants and 
does not seem to be on the way to an immediate and strong 
development. But the moral-religious system not only 
retains almost all of its traditional power, except in some 
limited circles, but is still growing as new conditions of 
communal life arise and the old principle is applied to new 
problems. We already see in these first volumes of letters 
that most of the religious interests explicitly expressed 
belong to this system, and we shall see it still more clearly 
in other volumes. 

4. Religion as a mystical connection of the individu 
with God expressed by the attitudes of love, personal sub- 
ordination, desire of personal perfection and of eternal life 
with God, etc., is, as we have said, not very much developed 
among the peasants. The peasant is a practical man; 
religion remains interwoven with his practical interests, 
while mysticism requires precisely a liberation from those 
interests, a concentration of thoughts and feelings upon 
beings and problems having little relation with everyday life. 



A sign of the lack of mysticism is the absolute orthodoxy of 
the peasant; unless by ignorance, he never dares to imagine 
any religious attitude different from the teaching of the 
church, because outside of the church he never imagines 
himself in any direct relation with the divinity. He is in 
this respect radically different from the Russian peasant. 
Still there are cases in which a mystical attitude develops 
during extraordinary religious meetings revivals, pilgrim- 
ages when the usual environment and the usual interests 
are for a while forgotten, and the individual is aroused from 
his normal state by the example of the devotion of others 
and by the influence of the mob of which he is a part. But 
these occasional outbreaks of mysticism in determined social 
conditions belong as much to the preceding religious system 
as to the properly mystical one. The way upon which the 
peasant can really pass into a new form of religious life leads 
through the problem of death. When death ceases to be a 
natural phenomenon preceding regeneration and becomes 
a passage into a new supernatural world, brooding upon the 
problem of death must lead to a certain detachment from 
the practical problems and open the way to mysticism. 
But this brooding upon death is possible only when the 
individual ceases to look upon his own death or that of 
his dear ones from the traditional social standpoint, from 
which the isolated death of a member of the group is a more 
or less normal event, particularly at a certain age ; he must 
begin to view death only as a fact of individual life, for only 
then it has extraordinary, abnormal importance which can 
give birth to mystical reflections and attitudes. And this 
requires again more individualization than the average 
peasant shows, more realization of the uniqueness of the 
individual. We find indeed mystical attitudes always 
during calamities which threaten the existence of the whole 
community pest or war. But single individuals develop 


such attitudes only when more or less isolated from their 
communities (e.g., servants in large cities) or when exception- 
ally cultivated. 


In Volume IV we shall have the opportunity of studying 
the peasant's theoretic and aesthetic interests in their full 
development under the influence of the culture of the supe- 
rior classes. As these interests were, however, apparently 
never lacking, and are manifested in Volumes I and II, it 
will be useful to determine their place within the tradi- 
tional peasant life and their relation to the practical atti- 
tudes. We shall then be able to understand how they have 
sometimes succeeded in occupying within a single generation 
the center of attention of individuals and of whole groups. 

i. There are three primary forms in which theoretic 
interests are manifested in the peasant the schematism of 
practical life, interest in new facts, and interest in religious 
explanations of the world. 

The first is completely original. It arises out of the 
peasant's spontaneous reflection on his activity and its 
conditions, on his human and natural environment. It 
constitutes the peasant's "wisdom," and is very clearly 
distinguished by public opinion from practical ability in 
itself. A man may be very wise, have valuable generaliza- 
tions concerning practice, and still be unpractical through 
lack of energy, of presence of mind, etc. This distinction 
assumes a satirical meaning in the tales having as their 
subject three brothers, two wise and one stupid. The last 
is always practically successful, while the first two, with all 
their wisdom, behave like fools. 

For a man accustomed to live in action the task of 
reflection is not an easy one. We see how the peasant 
prepares for it, tries to find free time and a solitary place, 


and then spends occasionally many hours in thinking. 
Even when he wants to write a letter which requires reflec- 
tion, he treats it as a difficult and long business. A proof 
of the importance of reflection in his eyes is seen in the fact 
that he remembers for many years every act of reflection 
which he performed (cf. the case of Wladek in Volume III). 
But precisely on that account the process of reflection, 
artificially isolated from the process of activity, assumes a 
somewhat independent interest; the peasant enjoys the 
solution of a problem as such. The numerous riddles which 
we find in the Polish folklore are also a proof of this. 

The results of such individual acts of reflection, accu- 
mulated through generations, constitute a rich stock of 
popular wisdom. Apart of it is expressed in proverbs; but 
with the growing complexity of economic and social life and 
growing rapidity of change the new reflections have no time 
to crystallize themselves into proverbs, but tend to formu- 
late themselves in changing abstract schemes of life com- 
municated gradually by the peasants to one another. 

We may divide this practical philosophy into two classes 
schemes of things and schemes of people. The first 
concerns agriculture, handicraft, trade, medicine, etc. It 
is of course impossible to study here the whole content of the 
respective beliefs ; we can only note certain of their general 
characters. First, they proceed always from the particular 
to the general, by induction, and their systematization, the 
subordination of details to a general view, seems very slow. 
We have already noticed this with regard to economic 
concepts; the extension of the quantitative viewpoint to 
farm goods comes very late. Another very general example 
is the slowness of imitation. It may come from many other 
reasons, but a frequent reason is also the lack of generaliza- 
tion. The peasant who sees an estate-owner apply some 
new technical invention with good results does not imitate 


him, simply because he does not see the identity of their 
respective positions as farmers. His usual argument is: 
" It is all right for you, who are a rich and instructed man, 
but not for a poor, stupid peasant like me." The difference 
in social position as a whole hinders him from noticing that 
in this particular respect he can do the same as his superior. 
For the same reason the peasant brings relatively little 
agricultural learning from season-emigration. In Germany 
he usually finds an agricultural level even higher than that 
on the estate of his neighbor, and the difference between his 
own farming and that of the large German estates is so 
great that he does not dare to generalize and to apply at 
home what he learned abroad. On the other hand, we find 
him making most hasty and superficial generalizations; 
proverbs and sayings concerning farmwork and weather in 
connection with the days of the year are based mostly upon 
a few disconnected observations; a new object is often 
classified upon the basis of a quite superficial analogy with 
known objects. Both the slowness and the incidental 
superficiality and hastiness of generalization result from the 
way in which the process of reflection occurs. When the 
peasant begins to think, the result depends upon the material 
which at this moment is present in the sphere of his con- 
sciousness. If the material happens to be well selected and 
sufficient, the generalization is valid; if not, it is false. But 
valid or false it will be accepted by the author himself and 
often by others until a time of reflection again comes and 
some new generalization is made in accordance with, or 
contrary to, the first. Because reflection requires so much 
effort its results are seldom verified hi experience, seldom 
criticized. This explains the many evident absurdities and 
contradictory statements current among the peasants; once 
created they live, and they have even a useful function 
because they help to equilibrate one-sided views of others. 


The peasant seldom uses dialectic in criticizing any view 
and can hardly be persuaded by dialectic. He simply 
opposes his opinion to another; and the more effort the 
elaboration of this opinion has cost him, the less willing 
is he to exchange it for another. He may even acknowledge 
that the contrary opinion is right, but he holds that his own 
is also right, and he feels no necessity of solving the apparent 
contradiction unless the problem is important enough to 
compel him to do some more thinking and to elaborate a 
third, intermediary opinion. He is so accustomed to live 
among partial and one-sided generalizations that he likes to 
collect all the opinions on some important issue, listens with 
seeming approval to every one, and finally either does what 
he intended to do at first or sets about reflecting and elab- 
orates his own view. If he selects the opinion of anybody 
else, he is led, not by the intrinsic merit of the opinion, but 
by his appreciation of the man. If only he has confidence 
in the man's sincerity and intelligence, he supposes that the 
man's advice was the result of a sufficient process of thinking 
and considers it useless to repeat this thinking himself in 
order to appreciate the advice on its merits. 

His ideas about other people are equally schematic, 
either appropriated from the traditional store or inde- 
pendently elaborated at some moment of intense thinking 
and afterward used without any new reflection. The 
peasant's general prepossession about people is that every- 
body is moved only either by his egotistic interest or by 
solidarity with his group; if neither can be detected, then 
evidently the man is clever enough to keep his motives 
hidden. If, nevertheless, a person's activity, particularly 
that of a stranger, is manifestly disinterested, the peasant 
supposes first stupidity, and recurs to altruism only as the 
last explanation. The only exception is the priest, who has 
to be altruistic ex officio; here egotistic interest is usually 


the last, more or less forced, explanation. The willingness 
of the peasant to do business with a given person and 
particularly to be persuaded by him depends upon the degree 
to which he understands or thinks that he understands the 
motives of this person. He will show confidence more 
readily in a man whose motives he knows to be not only 
interested but even dishonest than in one whom he does not 
understand, because in the first case he can take the motives 
into account, while in the second he does not know how to 
limit the possibilities and does not know what to expect. 
Accordingly he has a summary and egocentric classification 
ready and applies it in any given case. Those of the first 
class are the members of his family, whose behavior ought to 
be determined by the familial relations themselves and from 
whom solidarity can be expected. Then come the members 
of the community, classified again according to their nearer 
or more remote neighborhood, their fortune, character, etc. 
Then come all the other, unknown peasants, whose interests 
are supposed to be the same as those of the known ones. 
The priest, the noble, the Jew, are people of different classes, 
but still supposedly known. The priest's official character 
has already been determined, and, of course, the peasant 
understands the usual weaknesses of the country priest- 
money, wine, and his housekeeper. Every noble is sup- 
posed to desire in his heart the reintroduction of serfdom; 
but besides this he is a farmer, a man who has innumerable 
common traditions with the peasant. There may be hostil- 
ity between him and his peasant neighbors, but there is 
always more or less of reciprocal understanding. The Jew 
is classed once and forever as a merchant and cheater, and 
no other motive than money is ascribed to him; but this 
makes his schematization relatively easy in spite of the fact 
that the peasant knows little, if anything, about his familial 
and religious life. In this connection, however, the Jew 



often cheats the peasant by putting forward a smaller or 
pretended interest to fit the scheme and keeping the larger 
and real interest in the background. Political agitators 
sometimes do the same. There is also a scheme correspond- 
ing to the lower officials in small towns and to the hand- 
workers. But the peasant does not understand at all the 
instructed city fellows. Those who came to the country 
with idealistic purposes had no success at all for many years; 
only lately, thanks to a few eminent men, a favorable sche- 
matization has been formed of those who want to raise the 
peasant intellectually and economically, and the peasant has 
begun to understand this kind of interest. 

If now it accidentally happens that one of these pre- 
established schemes fails in a particular or general case, the 
peasant loses his head. Every exception from the admitted 
rule assumes in his eyes unlimited proportions. A mem- 
ber of the family who shows no solidarity, a member of 
the community who does not reciprocate a service, provokes 
an astonishment which the peasant cannot forget for a long 
time. A bad, "unworthy" priest or a noble who acts 
against the traditions arouses the most profound indigna- 
tion; and if, on the other hand, a noble (particularly a 
woman) proves really well disposed and democratic, without 
being too familiar, the peasant's attitude in the course of 
time comes near to adoration. And when some of the 
city men succeeded in breaking down the peasants' mistrust 
and becoming political or social leaders, the confidence of 
the peasants in them became unlimited, absurd. Finally, 
when the peasant finds himself among strangers, as upon 
emigration, and sees that none of his schemes can be applied 
to the people around him, he is for a very long time abso- 
lutely unable to control his social environment, because it 
takes so long to elaborate a new scheme. In the beginning, 
therefore, he simply must settle among people from his own 


country in order to learn from them at least a few elementary 
generalizations, unless, indeed, as seldom happens, he hi 
some time free to observe and to reflect. The fault is here 
again insufficient generalization ; the peasant has schemes of 
particular classes of people, but not of man in general. 

The interest in new facts is always strong, even if not 
supported by practical motives. We are here very much 
reminded of the curiosity of a child, without the child's 
restlessness. The intensity of social life in an unorganized 
community naturally depends upon this interest. Any- 
thing that happens within the community attracts atten- 
tion, even if only the most striking of these facts become 
the center of attention of the whole community. Each 
fact provokes some kind of a reaction, and, as we have seen 
in a previous chapter, common attitudes are elaborated and 
become factors of social unity. In this way the interest 
in facts happening within the community has a social 
importance. But the peasant is not conscious of the social 
consequences of his curiosity; he just naively wants to 
know. And he knows and remembers everything about 
his environment. This is of course also useful to him per- 
sonally, for it enables him to construct practical schemes; 
this is a consequence, however, not a motive. He does not 
try to know in order to build schemes, but he .builds schemes 
when, among all the facts that he has learned, one strikes 
him as practically important. Consequently the sphere of 
his concrete knowledge is incomparably larger than the 
sphere of his practical schemes, and one of the most impor- 
tant sides of his latest intellectual development is the 
learning of the practical significance of things with which he 
was acquainted long ago. 

This independence of curiosity from practical problems 
enables the peasant to show a lively interest in things that 
can have no practical importance for him. In older times 


2 95 

the main bulk of such information was supplied by returning 
soldiers, emigrants, pilgrims, travelers, beggars. Happen- 
ings in the political and religious world, extraordinary social 
events outside of the community, marvels of nature and 
industry, the variety of human mores, were and are still the 
main objects of interest. Fiction stories also are gladly 
listened to, but the interest in them seems to be in general 
much less lively. They are treated as history, as true, but 
concerning facts that were past long ago, and are therefore 
less interesting than those which are still real in themselves 
or in their consequences. When the imagination is dis- 
closed as such, even this interest is usually lost. The 
peasant wants to know only about reality. 

" When reading developed, the interest for facts got a 
new food. As we shall see later, the popular newspapers 
have to give many descriptions of concrete facts in order to 
be read, and the promotion of practical and intellectual 
progress must to a large extent take this concrete curiosity 
into account. Even on a higher intellectual level this 
character of theoretic interests is preserved. Descriptive 
works on geography, ethnography, technology, zoology, 
botany, etc., have the greatest popularity; historical books 
are on the second plane; fiction comes last, unless its 
subjects are taken from the life of other classes and other 
nations or, in general, unless it informs about things that 
the peasant did not know. As a result some of the popular 
papers have dropped completely the old custom of publish- 
ing novels and short stories. 

The situation is quite different among city workers and 
the lower middle class, where fiction-reading assumes enor- 
mous proportions and a powerfully developed interest for 
plot has favored the recent success of sensational litera- 
ture. This difference of interest between the country and 
city population is certainly due to a difference in social 


conditions. The city inhabitants have not as keen an 
interest hi new facts as we find hi the country because city 
life gives them a superabundance of new facts and the 
receptivity is deadened, and because the additional excite- 
ment which the peasant gets by sharing the news with his 
community is here almost lacking. The relatively unsettled 
character of the life of a city inhabitant as compared with 
that of the peasant, the uncertainty and the relatively 
numerous possibilities of the future, give more food for 
imagination, make it easier for the reader to put himself in 
the place of the hero of the novel and thus enjoy the plot. 
But, on the other hand, the numerous social and political 
problems raised by modern industrial life find a more ready 
reception among city workers than among peasants, and 
open the way to the development of an intense and serious 
intellectual life. Hence it may be said that with regard to 
intellectual activities the lower city class can be divided 
into fiction-readers without social interests and non-fiction 
readers with social interests. 

There is indeed one kind of fiction that always finds 
a strong interest among the peasants; it is religious fiction 
legends, lives of saints, etc. This, however, is quite a 
different kind of interest, based on the general theoretic 
and practical value which the peasant ascribes to the 
religious conceptions. The peculiarities of this attitude 
compel us to notice it here as a distinct class of theoretic 
interest. Here of course, the theoretic interest is not 
primarily independent of other kinds of interests, but is 
only a part of the general religious interest which contains 
also practical and aesthetic elements. But while in the 
whole complicated machinery of the cult these elements are 
indissolubly connected, hi the myth the theoretic element 
predominates and becomes frequently quite isolated from 
the others. The relation to practice is then only mediate. 


It is useful, indeed, to know everything about nature, or 
spirits, or magic, in order to control eventually the religious 
reality; but this control is exerted by the peasant himself 
to only a small extent, since there are specialists who not 
only know more than the peasant does about the nature of 
this world but have particular means and particular powers. 
Except by prayer and a few simple ceremonies, the peasant 
does not try to turn his knowledge directly into control, but 
appeals to the specialist. As soon as the latter intrudes 
between religious theory and religious practice the interest 
in theory loses its relation to practical aims. Myth then 
becomes for the layman chiefly a theoretic explanation, 
but, on the other hand, the interest in mythology remains 
for a long time the most popular form in which the peasant's 
desire for explanations manifests itself. The reality of this 
desire is shown by the fact that Christian mythology, 
particularly its part concerning the origin of things and 
of their qualities, has grown considerably, and many old 
myths, such as those of Genesis, have been greatly changed, 
systematized, and completed. Lately the explanatory sci- 
ences physics, chemistry, biology, geology have begun 
to take the place of religion. 

To these three spheres of theoretic interest schemes 
built in view of practice, concrete facts, genetic explana- 
tions correspond three different types of specialists. We 
find, first of all, the wise and experienced old peasant who 
plays in the village or in the community the role of an adviser 
in troubles and is the real intellectual leader at all the 
meetings having some practical situation in view. He has 
usually a good material position; his success is a guaranty 
of his wisdom. He must be well known for his honesty, 
otherwise people would not listen to him. He must have 
traveled nlore or less and met many different people, for 
this gives assurance that he will be able to grasp any new 


situation. He is prudent, conservative, mistrusting. He 
talks with deliberation, slowly, weighing carefully every 
word. His arguments seldom fail to persuade, because they 
express ideas which his listeners had more or less clearly 
realized themselves. He usually selects only some of the 
many ready schemes; his main function is their systematiza- 
tion and adaptation to the given practical problem. These 
"advisers," as we may call them, are frequently the greatest 
obstacle to all the efforts to enlighten and organize the 
peasants ; but if once such an intellectual leader is won, the 
community follows him rapidly and easily. Such men are 
often elected mayors of the commune. In extraordinary 
epochs of rapid social change (as during the revolutionary 
period of 1904-6) the old adviser may be provisionally 
supplanted by a popular agitator whose influence is based, 
not upon personal authority and not upon a selection of 
arguments which the community implicitly approves, but 
upon an ability to provoke favorable feelings. Then the 
peasant himself finds among his various schemes the 
necessary arguments. 

The second type may be called the " narrator." He may 
be old or young; formerly he should have traveled much, 
now he may simply read much. He is the source of informa- 
tion about facts. His importance is not even approximately 
as great as that of the adviser. He is seldom if ever asked 
for advice in important matters. He may have no social 
position at all; he may be a daily worker, a hired servant, or 
even a parasite. He has inherited the function of the 
.ancient beggar or pilgrim. A solid social position is even 
hardly compatible with this function if the latter is steadily 
performed, for naturally much time is needed to learn new 
facts. Insignificant in times of work and serious business, 
the narrator becomes a personality at moments* free from 
practical care, on winter evenings when the family and the 


neighbors gather in the big room of some rich peasant men 
smoking, women doing some light handiwork and listen 
to the narration. Lately, since reading has developed, the 
narrator is being gradually supplanted by the reader. 

The function of "explaining" was traditionally per- 
formed by the "wise" man or woman, and by the priest, 
often by the organist. Since religious explanations have 
begun to give place to scientific explanations there is an 
evident need for a new kind of specialist. Indeed, this is the 
moment for the appearance of the "philosopher" in the 
ancient Greek sense, for the modern scientist with his 
specialization cannot satisfy the peasant's many-sided 
desire for explanation. Hence this type also is beginning 
to develop. It is the self-taught man, reading every book 
he can get, always prepared to discuss any subject and eager 
to explain everything. He writes elaborate letters to the 
papers, wants to contribute to the solution of every scientific 
problem about which he hears, is eager to correspond with 
scientists whose fame reaches him, and is continually 
thinking about abstract matters. As this type is recent 
in the country his position in the peasant community is not 
yet sufficiently determined. But since he is the natural 
antagonist of the priest, it is probable that he will become 
an intellectual leader of the anti-religious movement when 
this movement develops in the country. Among the lower 
classes of the town population he already plays a part in 
this movement. 

The social prestige attached to the functions of the 
adviser, the narrator, and the philosopher, even if often mixed 
in the beginning with a particular kind of condescension with 
regard to the two latter types, is a strong factor in instruc- 
tion. Reciprocally, when instruction develops, the prestige 
of these functions grows. We shall see how the movement 
of "enlightenment" uses this circumstance for its ends. 


In general, the rapid intellectual progress of the peasant 
during the last thirty years, as well as the progress of social 
organization, are made possible only through certain pre- 
existing features of the peasant's intellectual and social life. 
The men who lead the peasants have succeeded in exploiting 
those features for the sake of a higher cultural development, 
and this is their merit. 

2. The aesthetic interests of the peasant have two main 
sources religion and amusement. 

We have already noticed the frequent analogy between 
religious and aesthetic fantasy; both tend to individualize 
their object, both find a particular meaning in the empirical 
data which goes beyond the sensual content. However, 
while in religion this super-sensual side of the world is 
taken quite seriously as a perfect reality and referred to 
practice, from the standpoint of the aesthetic interest its 
existence is not believed and its role is only to give more 
significance to the sensual world itself. Hence religious 
beliefs whose seriousness is lost or whose real sense is 
forgotten become aesthetic attitudes. We find innumerable 
examples in the peasant life. Old tales in which naturalistic 
religious beliefs are still plainly noticeable and many of the 
spirit stories are now merely matters of entertainment; the 
narrator often changes, shortens, develops, combines them, 
giving free play to his imagination. Most of the patterns, 
forms, and combinations of colors in popular architecture, 
furniture, dress, and ornament had a magical value. 1 The 
magical significance is mainly forgotten, but the traditional 
models still determine the taste. Old ceremonies whose 
original religious meaning can be easily recognized even now 
often remain only aesthetically valuable for the peasant, 

1 Cf. M. Wawrzeniecki, Nowe naukowe stanawisko pojmowania i wyjatniania 
niektdrych przejawdw w dziedzinie ludoznawstwa (Warsaw, 1910). 


who has a very keen sense for the picturesque, theatrical 
side of ceremonial groups and collective or individual 
performances. Often while the religious attitude is still 
vital it is so mixed with the aesthetic feeling that it is 
impossible to determine which is more important. Many 
religious songs are sung at home for the sake of aesthetic 
enjoyment, and it happens that a religious melody is used 
with worldly words, or vice versa. Images of saints are 
frequently treated simply as pictures. When the church 
is adorned with flowers or when girls dressed in white throw 
flowers before the priest during the Corpus Christi proces- 
sion, the religious attitude is evidently dominant. But we 
cannot say this with certainty when houses are adorned at 
Pentecost with green and flowers or when the Christmas- 
tree is dressed. In short, we not only see the results of the 
degeneration of old religions into aesthetic attitudes, but 
at every moment and in innumerable details we see the 
process still going on. 

From social amusements arise many of the aesthetic 
interests of the peasant. Popular music and poetry hi 
particular have their main source here. Most of the music 
is developed from dance music, as the rhythm shows. All 
the popular poems are songs. At present it is still the 
custom in many localities when boys and girls meet, with or 
without dancing, to sing alternately old songs and invent 
new ones, either seriously or jokingly. Sometimes long 
poems are composed and repeated in this way, one stanza 
by a boy, another by a girl. Love is usually the more or 
less serious subject of the poems sung in a mixed society, 
while others sung by boys or girls alone have a great variety 
of subjects, embracing the whole sphere of peasant life. 

A type of poetry whose source is undetermined is cere- 
monial songs and speeches in verse sung or recited at 
weddings, funerals, christenings, the end of harvest, and at 


other familial and social festivals. Many of them are very 
old and in all probability originally had a religious sig- 
nificance. Sometimes they are modified to suit the occasion. 
Others are more recent, sometimes composed for the occa- 
sion, and their aim is evidently social to entertain the 
persons present, to give advice and warning, to express 
feelings of familial or communal solidarity, to ask for gifts, 
to extend thanks for hospitality, etc. 

More recently an intense aesthetic movement has mani- 
fested itself among the peasants, particularly along literary 
lines, and while this is developed upon the traditional 
background it tends increasingly to come under the influence 
of the models presented by the upper classes. There are 
probably few, if any, among the half -educated peasants who 
do not try to become poets. We shall examine this move- 
ment in a later volume. 


The Polish peasant, as the present collection shows, 
writes many and long letters. This is particularly striking, 
since the business of writing or even of reading letters is 
at best very difficult for him. It requires a rather painful 
effort of reflection and sacrifice of time. Letter-writing is 
for him a social duty of a ceremonial character, and the 
traditional, fixed form of peasant letters is a sign of their 
social function. 

All the peasant letters can be considered as variations of 
one fundamental type, whose form results from its function 
and remains always essentially the same, even if it eventually 
degenerates. We call this type the "bowing letter." 

The bowing letter is normally written by or to a member 
of the family who is absent for a certain time. Its function 
is to manifest the persistence of familial solidarity in spite 
of the separation. Such an expression became necessary 
only when members of the family began to leave their 
native locality; as long as the family stayed in the same 
community, the solidarity was implicitly and permanently 
assumed. The whole group manifested its unity at period- 
ical and extraordinary meetings, but no single member in 
particular was obliged to manifest his own familial feelings 
more than other members, unless on some extraordinary 
occasions, e.g., at the time of his or her marriage. But the 
individual who leaves his family finds himself in a distinctive 
situation as compared with that of other members, and the 
bowing letter is the product of this situation. There is 
nothing corresponding to it in personal, immediate familial 


In accordance with its function, the bowing letter has 
an exactly determined composition. It begins with the 
religious greeting: "Praised be Jesus Christus," to which 
the reader is supposed to answer, "In centuries of centuries. 
Amen." The greeting has both a magical and a moral 
significance. Magically it averts evil, morally it shows that 
the writer and the reader are members of the same religious 
community, and from the standpoint of the moral-religious 
system every community is religious. A common subordi- 
nation to God may also be otherwise expressed throughout 
the entire letter, but the greeting is the most indispen- 
sable expression. There follows the information that the 
writer, with God's help, is in good health and is succeeding, 
and wishes the same for the reader and the rest of the family. 
We know that health (struggle against death) and living 
constitute the reason of natural and human solidarity 
(only spiritual solidarity aims at power). Finally come 
greetings, "bows," for all the members of the family, or 
from all the members of the family if the letter is written 
to the absent member. The enumeration should be com- 
plete, embracing at least all the members who still live in 
the same locality, if the family is already scattered, as 
often happens today. 

These elements remain in every letter, even when the 
function of the letter becomes more complicated; every 
letter, in other words, whatever else it may be, is a bowing 
letter, a manifestation of solidarity. Various elements may 
be schematized; the words "bows for the whole family" 
may, for example, be substituted for the long enumeration, 
but the principle remains unchanged in all the familial 

The bowing letter is the only one which has an original 
function. The functions of all the other types of familial 
letters are vicarious; the letter merely takes the place of a 


personal, immediate communication. It has to perform 
these vicarious functions when the absence of the member 
of the family becomes so long that it is impossible to wait 
for his arrival. 

According to the nature of these vicarious functions, we 
can distinguish five types of family letters, each of which is 
also and fundamentally a bowing letter. 

1. Ceremonial letters. These are sent on such familial 
occurrences as normally require the presence of all the 
members of the family weddings, christenings, funerals, 
name-days of older members of the group; Christmas, 
New Year, Easter. These letters are substitutes for cere- 
monial speeches. The absent member sends the speech 
written instead of saying it himself. The function of such 
a letter is the same as the function of meeting and speech, 
namely, the revival of the familial feeling on a determined 
occasion which concerns the whole group. 

2. Informing letters. The bowing letter leaves the 
detailed narration of the life of the absent member or of 
the family-group for a future personal meeting. But if the 
meeting is not likely to occur soon, the letter has to perform 
this function vicariously and provisionally. In this way 
a community of interests is maintained in the family, 
however long the separation may be. 

3. Sentimental letters. If the primitive, half -instinctive 
familial solidarity weakens as a consequence of the separa- 
tion, the sentimental letter has the task of reviving the 
feelings in the individual, independently of any ceremonial 

4. Literary letters. We have seen that during informal 
meetings as well as during ceremonies the aesthetic interests 
of the peasant find their most usual expression in the form 
of music, songs, and recital of poems. The absent member 
who cannot take a personal part in the entertainments 


of his group often sends a letter in verse instead, and is 
sometimes answered in the same way. It is an amusement 
which has an element of vanity in it, since the letter is 
destined to be read in public. The literary letters certainly 
play an important part in the evolution through which the 
primitive aesthetic interests, manifested during the meetings 
of the primary group, change into literary interests whose 
satisfaction depends upon print. 

5. Business letters. The vicarious function of these is 
quite plain. As far as possible the peasant does all his 
business in person, and resorts to a business letter only when 
the separation is long and the distance too great for a special 

Up to the present we have spoken of family letters, for 
the original function of the letter was to keep members of a 
family in touch with one another. Letters to strangers can 
perform all the functions of a family letter, but the essential 
one of maintaining solidarity exists only in so far as the 
solidarity itself is assumed. Correspondence with a stranger 
can also help to establish a connection which did not exist 
before a function which the family letter has only when 
a new member is added to the family through marriage, i.e., 
when a stranger becomes assimilated. 

We must mention also the question of the relation of 
expression to thought in the peasant letters. The peasant 
language, as can be noticed even in translation, has many 
traditional current phrases used in determined circum- 
stances for determined attitudes. They are not, like prov- 
erbs, results of a general reflection about life, but merely 
socially fixed ways of speaking or writing. The peasant 
uses them, not only for traditional attitudes, but also 
in some measure to express attitudes which already 
diverge from the tradition, if this divergence is not felt 
clearly to necessitate a new expression. And when he 


gets outside of the usual form of expression and tries to 
find new words and new phrases, then, of course, it is 
difficult for him to keep the exact proportion, particularly 
when he uses the literary language. He sometimes uses 
great words to express trifles, or, more frequently, he 
expresses profound and strong feelings in phrases which to 
an intelligent reader seem weak and commonplace, but 
which seem strong and adequate to the writer, who is less 
familiar with them. But when the peasant, instead of 
trying to imitate the literary language, finds for his new 
attitudes words in his own philological stock, his style has 
often a freshness and accuracy impossible to render in 

Further, society always tends to ritualize social inter- 
course to some extent, and every modification of a ritual 
produces disturbances more profound than could reasonably 
be anticipated. We have, for example, ritualized remarks 
on the weather in connections where social intercourse is 
limited to casual meetings and greetings, and if on these 
occasions a man remarked habitually, "Fine trees," in the 
place of "Fine weather," this would lead to speculations 
on his sanity. With the peasant, as with the savage, the 
whole of social intercourse, including language, is more 
rigorously ritualized than with ourselves, and so long 
as the peasant remains within the sphere of traditional 
language the slightest shading of the expression is signifi- 
cant. We notice in this connection that in our material 
there is very little profanity or abuse between acquaint- 
ances or family members in personal intercourse. For the 
outsider and the absent person there are indeed adequate 
forms of abuse, but between those nearly related the maxi- 
mum effect can be produced by the minimum divergence 
from the usual language norms. See Raczkowski series, 
Nos. 404, 429. 



The following letters, or portions of letters, are printed 
here to illustrate the elements, as enumerated above, that 
enter into a letter. It will be understood that these 
specimens are intended to represent the more primitive 
and elemental types, into which little of the informing 
and business elements enters. Specimens of informing and 
business letters are not reproduced at this point, as they are 
the dominant type in the later series. See, for examples, 
Wroblewski series and Kowalski series. 

No. i below is an almost pure type of bowing letter. 

No. 2 is of the same type, written to a priest who took 
special interest in teaching peasants to write informing 
letters not very successfully in this case. 

No. 3 is sentimental, designed to "warm the frozen 
blood" of an absent brother. 

No. 4 is the ceremonial-congratulatory portion of a 

No. 5 is interesting as containing all the norms of a 
peasant letter, and also as an example of how proper and 
charming a letter may be within the traditional norms. 
The letter was written on "Palmer House" paper, but the 
writer was either a scrub-girl or a chambermaid. She is 
barely literate, as shown by the orthography and the 
absence of punctuation and capitalization. The girl to 
whom the letter was addressed could not write at all. 

No. 6 is from a girl in Poland to her brother-in-law in 
America, and shows in its most na'ive form the character of 
literary effort. It contains indications that the brother- 
in-law also was attempting literary achievement. 

No. 7 is the beginning of his reply to Magdusia. 

No. 8 is the rhymed and versified portion of a ceremonial 
letter to the writer of No. 7. As poetry it is very bad, and 
toward the end the versification and rhyme break down. 


Generally speaking, every literate peasant tries at some 
time in his life to write poetry, but the tendency expresses 
itself in profusion only when he begins to write for the 
newspapers, and this situation we treat in Volume IV. 

i PERTH AMBOY, N.Y., August n, 1911 

In the first words of my letter, beloved parents, we address you 
with these words of God: "Praised be Jesus Christus," and we hope 
that you will answer, "For centuries of centuries. Amen." 

And now I inform you about my health and success, that by the 
favor of God we are well, and we wish you the same. We wish you 
this, beloved parents, from our whole hearts. We inform you further 
that we received your letter, which found us in good health, which we 
wish to you. And now we ask how is the weather in the [old] country, 
because we have such heat that the sun is no degrees warm and many 
people fell dead from the sun during the summer of this year. Now, 
beloved father and beloved mother, I kiss your hands and legs. I end 
my conversation with you. Remain with God. Let God help you 
with good health and [permit me] to meet with you, beloved parents. 

So now I bow to you, beloved sister, and to you, beloved brother- 
in-law, and I wish you happiness and health and good success what 
you yourselves wish from God this same I, with my husband, wish 
you. So now I bow to Aunt Doruta, and to brother Aleksander, and 
to Jozef , and to you, my grandmother, and I wish you health and good 
success; what you yourself wish from God the same I wish to you, 
beloved grandmother, and to you, beloved sister, together with you, 
beloved brother. Now I bow to brother-in-law Moscenski and to 
sister Adela, and we wish them all kinds of success; what they wish 
from God the same we wish them. Now we send the lowest bow to 
the Doborkoskis, to brother-in-law and to sister and to their children, 
and we wish happiness, health, good success. What they wish from 
God the same we wish to them. - Goodbye. 

Now I, Stanislaw Pienczkowski, send a bow to my [wife's] parents, 
and I inform you, beloved parents, about my health, and that by the 
favor of God I am well, and the same I wish to you, beloved parents, 
and I ask you, beloved parents, why you do not write a letter, because 
I sent [a letter] to the Nowickis a week later, and they received it, 
and I cannot wait long enough [cannot endure the waiting] to get a 
letter. Therefore I ask you, beloved parents, to write me back a 
letter quicker. [No signature ] 



I, Leon Wesoly, writing April 28, 1912. "Praised be Jesus 
Christus." First of all, I lay down low bows to you, Canon Priest, 
as to my shepherd, and I inform you, Ecclesiastical Father, about 
our work and health. Thanks to God and the Holiest Mother, I am 
well. The work that I have is to arrange the bricks for burning. 
Also I inform you, Canon Priest, that there was a solar eclipse on the 
ist of April from i to 2 o'clock, but it happened so indecently that 
even shivers were catching a man. I do not have more to write, only 
I lay down sincere low bows from everybody with whom I work and 
live in this [despicable] Germany. Also I send a low bow to my wife, 
Rozalja. I do not have more to write. May God grant it. Amen. 
Praised be Jesus Christus. Address the same. 


3 WARSAW, April 29, 1914 

"Praised be Jesus Christus." 

DEAR BROTHER: [Greetings; health]. Although we write little 
to each other, almost not at all, and I don't know why such coldness 
prevails between us, still I write this letter from fraternal feeling, not 
from principle. I was with our parents for the holidays of the 
Resurrection of Our Lord. I read your letters, the one and the other. 
Our parents grieve that we live only for our own selves, like egotists. 
So it is my duty to take the pen into my hand and with God's help 
to write you a few words. At first, I thank you, dear brother Jan, for 
your kind memory of our parents for not forgetting them. Don't 
forget them in the future. Our father still looks sound and gay. 
Mother has grown old already, but she does not look bad, either. I 
have seen our whole brother-in-law [all of him]. I don't know whether 
you are acquainted with him. Such an [ordinary] boy! Not even 
ugly, only too small and with a white head. But our sister Marya 
looks very sickly. I could not recognize her. Stefa is in good health, 
but she "lacks the fifth stave" [is crazy]. And Franciszka is sick 
of consumption. I don't know whether it will be possible to save her, 
because she has been ill for the whole winter and looks like a shadow. 
And she is our pride, endowed with knowledge and a clever mind. 
What faculties she possesses for learning and for everything ! So, dear 
brother, we ought to make the greatest efforts to keep alive a sister 
whom we love exceedingly and who loves us. This is the result o 


my inquiries in the parental home. I write today letters to our 
parents also and to our aunt in Zambrow. Write to them also. I 
send them my photograph. Send yours also. I send my photograph 

also to you. Send me yours You know the address of our 

aunt .... and I beg you, dear brother, [write to her]. She loves 
us so much though she never sees us. Be so good and God will 
reward you. This will be her whole comfort, because who can com- 
fort her ? She prays God for our health and good success. Don't 
forget her. I kiss you and shake your hand. Your loving brother 

May this letter warm your frozen blood! Let us live in love and 
concord, and God will help us. 

4 POREBY WOLSKIE, January 30, 1910 

"Praised be Jesus Christus." 

We write you the third letter and we have no answer from you. 
[Greetings; health; wishes.] We hope that this letter will come to 
you for February 16, and on February 16 is the day of St. Julianna, 
patron of our daughter-in-law. Well, we congratulate you, dear 
daughter-in-law, because it is your name-day. We wish you health 
and happiness and long life. May you never have any sorrow; may 
you love one another and live in concord and love; may our Lord God 
make you happy in human friendship; may you be happy and gay; 
may our Lord God supply all your wants; may you lack nothing; 
may our Lord God defend you against every evil accident and keep 
you in his protection and grant you his gifts, the heavenly dew and the 
earthly fat. May our Lord God give you every sweetness, make you 
happy, and save you from evil. This your father and mother wish 

you from their whole heart 


5 28, 1912 

I am beginning this letter with the words: "Praised be Jesus 
Christus," and I hope that you will answer: "For centuries of 
centuries. Amen." 

DEAREST OLEJNICZKA: I greet you from my heart, and wish you 
health and happiness. God grant that this little letter reaches you 


well, and as happy as the birdies in May. This I wish you from my 
heart, dear Olejniczka. 

The rain is falling; it falls beneath my slipping feet. 

I do not mind; the post-office is near. 

When I write my little letter, 

I will flit with it there, 

And then, dearest Olejniczka, 

My heart will be light [from giving you a pleasure]. 

In no grove do the birds sing so sweetly 

As my heart, dearest Olejniczka, for you. 

Go, little letter, across the broad sea, for I cannot come to you. 
When I arose in the morning, I looked up to the heavens and thought 
to myself that to you, dearest Olejniczka, a little letter I must send. 

Dearest Olejniczka, I left papa, I left sister and brother and you, 
to start out in the wide world, and today I am yearning and fading 
away like the world without the sun. If I shall ever see you again, 
then, like a little child, of great joy I shall cry. To your feet I shall 
bow low, and your hands I shall kiss. Then you shall know how I 
love you, dearest Olejniczka. I went up on a high hill and looked 
in that far direction, but I see you not, but I see you not, and I hear 
you not. 

Dear Olejniczka, only a few words will I write. As many sand- 
grains as there are in the field, as many drops of water in the sea, so 
many sweet years of life I, Walercia, wish you for the Easter holidays- 
I wish you all good, a hundred years of life, health, and happiness. 
And loveliness I wish you. I greet you through the white lilies, I 
think of you every night, dearest Olejniczka. 

Are you not in Bielice any more, or what ? Answer, as I sent you 
a letter and there is no answer. Is there no one to write for you ? 

And now I write you how I am getting along. I am getting along 
well, very well. I have worked in a factory and I am now working 
in a hotel. I receive 18 (in our money 32) dollars a month, and that 
is very good. If you would like it, we could bring Wladzio over some 
day. We eat here every day what we get only for Easter in our 
country. We are bringing over Helena and brother now. I had 
$120 and I sent back $90. 

I have no more to write, only we greet you from our heart, dearest 
Olejniczka. And the Olejniks and their children; and Wladyslaw we 
greet; and the Szases with their children; and the Zwolyneks with 


their children; and the Grotas with their children, and the Gyrlas 
with their children; and all our acquaintances we greet. 

My address: North America [etc.] 
Goodbye. For the present, sweet goodbye. 


I sit down at a table 

In a painted room. 

My table shakes. 

I write a letter to you, dear sister and 

A lily blossomed 
And it was the Virgin Mary. 
I dreamed thus 

That my heart was near yours. 
First we shall greet each other, 
But not with hands, 
Only with those godly words, 
The words "Praised be Jesus Christus." 

I inform you now that it is cold here, hard to plant or to sow 
anything. I beg you, don't be angry with me for not having answered 
you [for] so long, but I had no time. 

Now I am writing to you, dear brother-in-law, with a smile, for 
when I read your letter, I laughed very much and I thought that you 
must have been in a good school since you knew so [well] how to 
compose that letter. But all this [that you write] is nothing [cannot 
come to pass], for is there any boy quite ready to come [and to marry 

Now, dear sister Ulis, I inform you that Jasiek went to you and 
I remained at home, for we could not both go together. And then, 
perhaps [sister] Hanka will get married, so there would be nobody to 
work. Perhaps there will be a wedding [Hanka's] when everything 
is planted. Now I beg you, dear brother-in-law, and you, Ulis, send 
me a few cents, for when I am a best maid, I should like to treat my 
.... [illegible word], and I have no money, for at home nothing can 
be earned. And I think that you don't need much money yet, for 
you have no children. Now I thank our Lord God that I have got 
such a good and funny brother-in-law, that we know how to speak to 


each other in such a funny way in our letters. When I am marrying 
I will invite you to be my best man. Now there won't be any war. 
Now there is nothing more interesting at home, only we are in good 
health, all of us, and we wish you the same. Our cattle are healthy, 
thanks to God. There is nothing more to write. When Hanusia is 
married they will write for you [to come] and invite you 



Now, dear [cousin] Jagus, I write to you. When father was once 
in your mother's house, your mother talked much against you, for 
when Makar was coming back to our country Jozef [your husband] 
wanted to give [send] trousers and a blouse, but you did not give 
[them]. So your mother is angry with you. 

7 April 6, 1914 
Go, little letter, by railway 

But don't go to the tavern, where people drink beer, 
For if you went there, you would get drunk. 
And you would never find the way to my sister, 
Go, little letter, through fields and meadows 
And when you reach Magdusia, kiss her hand. 

And now "Praised be Jesus Christus" and Mary, his mother, for 

shejs worthy of it 


8 BRANNAU, December n, 1910 

.... And now, beloved brother and dear brother-in-law, 
On the solemn day of Christmas and New Year 
I send wishes to your home, 
And I beg you, beloved brother-in-law and sister and dear 


Accept my wishes, 
For I am of the same blood as you. 
On this solemn day I am also rejoicing. 
And if I live and come back, I shall wish you by words. 
I think that I shall live to come back to you, 
And I wish you to live until then, 
And to congratulate together one another. 


For the day of New Year I wish you everything; 

May the Lord God bless you from His high heaven. 

I wish you happiness and every good luck, 

And, after death, in heaven a heavenly joy. 

As many sands as there are in the sea, as many fishes in the 


Even so much health and money I wish you. 
As many drops as fall into the sea, 
Even so much happiness may God grant you. 
And now I wish you happy holidays 
And a happy "Hey, kolenda, kolenda!" 1 
And may you live until a gay and happy New Year. 
And may God grant you health and strength for work, 
And may you earn much money. 
And I wish you a fine and merry amusement 
On Christmas day at the supper. 
I will not write you more in verses, 
For I have to write in other words [i.e., in prose]. 


1 Refrain of a Christmas song. 


In addition to the exhibition of various attitudes these 
letters show the primitive familial organization hi its relation 
to the problems which confront the group hi the various 
situations of life. These situations are conditioned either 
by normal internal and external processes and events to 
which the familial organization was originally adapted 
birth, growth, marriage, death of members of the group, 
normal economic conditions, traditional social environment, 
traditional religious life or by new tendencies and new 
external influences to which the familial organization was 
not originally adapted, such as the increase of instruction 
and the dissemination of new ideas, economic and social ad- 
vance, change of occupation, change of social environment 
through emigration to cities, to America, and to Germany, 
and contact with neighboring nationalities, mainly the 
Russian and German. 

Materials of this character do not lend themselves to a 
strictly systematic arrangement, but the letters are arranged 
as far as possible with reference to the presentation of two 
questions: the dominant situation hi which the group or 
its member finds itself, and the progressive disintegration 
of the family-group. 



We place first a short series of letters written by children. 
The girl, Bronislawa, is about seventeen years old, the boy, 
Jozef , thirteen or fourteen. The business part of the letters 
is evidently written at the request of the parents. The 
Polish of the letters is very interesting, typically peasant, 
without the slightest influence of the literary language; even 
many phonetic peculiarities find their expression in the 
spelling. This proves that the writers, particularly the 
girl, who is the principal author, are untouched by new 
cultural influences. And indeed for a Polish reader Bronis- 
lawa appears as a perfect type of a plain peasant girl in all 
her attitudes and interests. And this is the more noticeable 
because in the same village and vicinity live families who, 
particularly in the younger generation, are to a great extent 
outside and partly above the traditional peasant set of 
attitudes. This proves how individualized and variable is 
the influence of modern life upon the peasant milieu; we 
meet wide variations even within a single family. 

The particular freshness and vividness of interest toward 
all the elementary problems of communal, familial, and 
personal life shown in this series typical for the peasant, 
though in the case of Bronislawa due in part to the fact 
that the girl is passing from childhood to womanhood 
may be compared both with the Markiewicz series (Nos. 
142 ff.), where many interests have been developed under 
the influence of instruction, and with the Kanikula series 
where the lack of interest in the communal life results in 
an intellectual dulness which hinders the persons from be- 
coming interested in the variety of situations which even the 
simplest life involves. 



Another point of special interest in this series is the early 
fixation of attitudes in the peasant child. In a "primary" 
group like the peasant community the schematization of 
life in its main outlines is relatively fixed and simple, and 
the attitudes and values involved are universally and 
uncritically accepted. The child, as we may note in these 
letters, participates freely in the interests of the family and 
the community and acquires at a tender age the elements of 
a very stubborn conservatism. 


9 DOBRZYKOW, October 9, 1913, month loth 

DEAR BROTHER: [Usual greetings and wishes; letters received 
and sent.] As to this Alliance, you can inscribe yourself [become a 
member], for you may be in danger of life. 1 Moreover, you will 
receive a paper, you will have something to read. In our whole 
parish there is no news. The priest is building a barn and is calling 
for money. The organist is already consecrated as priest. He was 
here in Dobrzykow. In Gombin they are building the basement of 
the church. In Dobrzykow they sing very beautifully [in the choir]. 
They want to build schools in the commune of Dobrzykow, 2 but 
people don't want to agree, because it would be very expensive for 
every morg [taxes being paid in proportion to land]. Nothing good 
happened here. It rains more than in any year. [Crops and farm- 
work.] We should have harvested everything, but we had to work 
back [pay back with work] for the horses which they [our neighbors] 
lent us to plow. When we were digging [potatoes], an accident 
happened. Our hog broke his leg. And, in general, times are sad, it 
is autumn, it rains continually, and everything is very sad. My 

1 The Polish National Alliance in America insures its members. But the plan 
of life insurance is little known among the peasants, and in this case the girl seems 
to assume that the insurance of life would protect from death. 

2 The result of a new law permitting every commune to have as many schools 
as it determined, and assuring certain governmental help. This led to an agitation 
among the peasants by the intelligent classes for the development of public instruc- 
tion. (See Vol. IV.) 


dear brother, I am also weary [with staying] at home. And now, we 
beg you, send us as soon as possible any money which you can, for 

we need it very much And now you have a new suit, so send 

us your photograph, for I am curious to see Grodny's [daugh- 
ter] Ewka is going to America, also to Chicago. She boasted that 
she is going to a sweetheart. She told it only to me, but people are 
also talking about it. Amen. [BRONISLAWA] 

10 October 26, 1913 

.... DEAR BROTHER: .... We received the money, 100 

roubles, for which we thank you heartily With [sister] Micha- 

lina it is as it was. She has no wish to marry this one, she waits for 
another. And now we inform you what we did with this money. 
We gave the Markiewiczs those 50 roubles back with interest, and 
to the [commune] office a payement and interest. You asked for our 
advice, dear brother, whether you ought to inscribe yourself in the 
alliance. [Repeats the advice of the preceding letter.] When you send 
money, now, it will be for Michalina [i.e., dowry]. We are very 
satisfied that our Lord God helps you, so that people even envy you. 
What are the wages for girls ? What could I earn ? Although you 
work much, yet at least you earn well. 

I [Jozef] have an accordeon, and I assist at the holy Mass. 
Mother bought me a surplice. Bronislawa goes to the choir and sings. 
Now it is sad here, because autumn came. 

I, Bronislawa, and I, Jozef, beg you, dear brother, with our whole 
heart, send us 10 roubles for a gramophone. Now I inform you, dear 
brother, that I long very much for you, because I never see you. I 
have tears in my eyes always whenever I remember you. 1 


11 December 23, 1913, month i2th 
.... DEAR BROTHER: .... We received your letter 

We were very sad, particularly Broncia [Bronislawa] and I, Jozef, 

that you did not write for so long a time We have now not so 

much work We have holidays. It will be very merry for us, 

1 Certainly the longing is sincere, but it is here naively used to make the 
brother more favorable to the request. We see in it the germ of the policy of 
Kozlowska. (Cf. that series.) 


for now they [the season-workers] have come from Prussia, so there 
are many people in our village. We have no horse, for we don't need 
it any more. Our young cow will calve soon. After Christmas we 

shall thresh the rest of the rye. We killed the pig for ourselves 

There is no news now In carnival perhaps there will be more 

news. [Marriages enumerated.] 

There is a blacksmith who wants to buy the forge Do you 

order us to sell it or not, for he is waiting We ask you, dear 

brother, whether you write letters to Bugel's daughter, for Bugel 
boasted to our father that she intends to wait for you. Wladyslawa 
Jarosinska boasts also [that you write to her]. Bronka [Bronislawa] 
is curious what work she will do in America and what weather is there 
now. We thank you for this gift which you intend to send us. 
When you send it, address it to Bronka's name, or else they [the 
parents] will take it. Now I, Jozef, know already how to assist very 
nicely at the Mass in Latin. And the singers [women] sing beautiful 
Christmas songs. Our priest built a very nice barn. And in Gombin 
they built a barn for people [to worship], because only the basement 
of the church is ready. And Walenty Ostroski began to go [to the 
church] and to sing, but he had no voice. 

And I, Bronislawa, will probably visit you hi the spring, for we 
don't know with certainty whether Michalina will get married or not. 
I, Bronislawa, I could marry if I wanted to take the first man, but 
I won't marry just anybody. Szymanski's son wants to marry me, 
and perhaps it would be well for me, because he will take me to 
Warsaw, to [set up] a shop or restaurant. But I don't want him, for 
he is crippled. I have another who turns my head, but only when he 
comes back from the army. If Michalina marries, I will also marry. 
But I am not in a hurry to get married. Did I merit with God 
nobody more than him [the cripple] ? Our Lord God will help me to 
get somebody else. I hide myself from him, but he comes to me 
nevertheless, and brings with him more boys from the mills. We ask 
you whether Witkowski has children in America, or some additional 
wife? .... Alina Krajeska brought a small Prussian for herself 
[had an illegal child in Prussia]. We inform you, brother, what a 
good father we have. He lives like a king, and we all you know 
how it was before ? Well, now it is still worse. It is hard, much to 
complain of on all sides 




12 February 10, 1914 

.... I, Bronislawa, received 10 roubles and i copeck, for which 
I thank you heartily, dear brother. Now we inform you that the 
wedding [of Michalina] has been celebrated already on the day of 
Our Lady of the Thunder-Candles, 1 at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. 
Very few guests were in our house, only 60. There were 4 musicians. 
The music was very beautiful. The musicians were strangers, from 

Wykow. There were 8 best men and 8 best girls The 

wedding was very merry, so that even grandmother and grandfather 
danced. [Enumerates other weddings.] We were at the poprawiny 
[supplementary dancing; literally, " repairing "; a festival to complete 
a former one] in Trosin, in the house of the parents of our brother-in- 
law. He is a great success for us. Their fortune is big enough 

If you did not send those 100 roubles, don't send them now, only 
together [with the next] in March, because we don't need them now. i 
Don't be afraid, you can send this money, we won't waste it, we shall J 
lend itat interest. We have nothing more to write, only we salute 
you ~ T3ro ther-in-la w and Michalina salute you. And now we will 
write you who was with us at the wedding. [Enumerates.] And others 
also, but we won't express [name] any more. The family of our 
brother-in-law is orderly and full of character and agreeable and good. 
The brother-in-law's brother has an accordeon of one and a half 
tunes [octaves?], worth 40 roubles. He plays and sings very nicely. 

Michalina is greatly respected, all his brothers kiss her hand 


13 February 26, 1914 

.... DEAR BROTHER: .... Our young cow calved on Febru- 
ary 1 8. Grandfather and grandmother promise to will their land to 
Michalina, from April i. They are to live in the grandparents' 
house, to give them to eat and i rouble every week. Our young cow 
calved, had a she-calf. We shall keep her. And you, Wladzio, don't 
be afraid that we shall lose this money; we won't waste it, we won't 
spend it on drinking; when you come back, you will have this money. 
... Michalina collected 25 roubles for her caul. 

And I, Michalina Jasinska, thank you for the forge which you 
gave me for my caul, and also for those 100 roubles which you intend 

1 So called because of the ceremony of the consecration of candles supposed to 
avert thunder-stroke. 


to send me for the wedding, although you did not send them 

We borrowed 100 roubles from Markiewicz, but this money we paid 

back to K With the money which I collected for my caul I 

bought for myself a feather-cover, 3 pillows, and I paid 2 roubles to 
the cook. There were gaps enough which I had to stop. Only 10 
roubles were left, and they want me to give even them, grandfather 
for a horse, and father for flour. Well, I got married, it is true, but 
I am neither upon water nor upon ice [not settled] 

And now I write, Bronislawa B In our choir there are 

few girls left, for the others got married. [Enumerates these.] On the 
last day of carnival we were in Trosinek [with the parents of the 
brother-in-law] our brother-in-law, Michalina, grandfather and I. 
His brothers respect me much. His brother played the accordeon, and 
I played also. They were at our house on Sunday. People envy us 
very much because of this luck. Now our brother-in-law is in our 
house, and later perhaps he will be in grandfather's house, for grand- 
father cannot work. And perhaps he will will him [his farm], for he 
pleased grandfather much. And I, Bronka, shall be at home, for 
you write, dear brother, that in America it is bad. Don't grieve, dear 
brother, about me, I shall get married even in our country, since 
Michalina is already married. 1 But I will wait until you come from 
America, for I desire either you, dear brother, to be at my wedding, 
or myself to be at yours. Either I will be best girl at your wedding 
or you shall be best man at mine. 

We are very satisfied that Michalina got married, only we were 
very sorry that you were not at the wedding. His brothers are so 
agreeable that nobody could be ashamed of them. They greet us 
while they are still far from us. The youngest of them is 20 years old. 
From this money I, Bronka, bought myself stuff for a dress, and I, 
Jozef, a suit, and we gave mother the rest. Michalina had a white 
dress at her wedding. Three carriages went to the wedding. I greet 
you, I, Bronislawa, and I, Jozef. 

14 May 19, 1914 

.... We thank you, dear brother, for your photograph, and 
father asks you for money to send some to us. If you cannot send 
more, send at least 100 roubles for the Markiewiczs, and if you can 

1 The younger daughter customarily waits for the marriage of the older, and 
parents usually refuse to let the younger daughter be married first. 


send more, send more. We should lend it .... in a very sure 

place Markiewicz [Stanislaw] from Zazdzierz came on May 15 

[from America], and gave us money, 2 roubles I, Jozef, thank 

you for these 2 roubles Our brother-in-law got acquainted 

with Michalina as boys usually do with girls, as you did with Bug- 
lowna. Dear Wladzio, Bugiel boasts that Staska is to wait for you. 

But she is sick with consumption If our Lord God allows you 

to come back, you could marry where Wiktor Markiewicz did. He 
wishes you to marry there [his wife's sister]. And of those singers 
none sings any more, because they quarrelled with the organist and 
the priest, and now others are learning. I go to sing whenever I have 

time, and later perhaps I shall go weeding I shall earn at 

least enough to buy slippers. BRONISLAWA 

15 June 5, 1914 

DEAR BROTHER: .... We received money, 500 roubles, for 
which we thank you heartily Michalina and our brother-in- 
law are leaving us. They will rent a lodging, because the old ones 
[grandparents] won't take her yet. Now we inform you what was. 
the news at Pentecost: a merry-go-round, a theater, 12 crosses 
[processions], many of them from far away. [TOZEF] 

I, Bronislawa Borek, write to you a few words, dear brother. 
About money I shall write later on, where we lend it, for now we don't 
know yet. And so, my dear brother, our father cannot come to an 
understanding with our brother-in-law. I am very ashamed and 
pained, and I don't know how it will be further. I will write you 
more, for I have nobody to whom to complain. I will go soon to 

work, for 4 weeks Wladyslaw abka writes me letters from 

the army. He wants to marry me when he comes in autumn from 
the army, but I don't want to. I should prefer some craftsman, and 
I will wait until I get some craftsman ' [BRONISLAWA] 

16 July 23, 1914 

DEAR BROTHER: .... Your money is lent. Jan Golebiewski 
borrowed 100 roubles and Jan Switkowski 300 roubles. We have 
notes Now we inform you about our farm-stock. We have 

1 Because she wants to go to the city. 


2 cows and one she-calf from the young cow. Father bought a cow 
for Michalina .... and they were to go and rent a lodging, but 

they sold the cow and took the money and don't go anywhere 

Michalina does not want to buy a cow for herself, but they began 
to trade in pigs and orchards. For me, Jozef, they [the parents] 
bought nice shoes, but only a cotton-suit, for there was not enough 

left for a cloth-suit. Father hardly could calculate 


And now I, Bronislawa, write you a few words, dear brother. 
.... We inform you what father did with these 100 roubles. He 
bought a cow for Michalina, a horse [for himself] and made the 
payment in the [communal-bank] office. We gave Michalina a cow 
once, but we won't give her one a second time. You have sent us 
already 600 and 12 roubles. Dear brother, we thank you very much 
for the money which you sent. People marvel much, that our Lord 
God helps you so, and they envy. Don't grieve that a single grosz 
will be lost. When you return, all this will be given back to you. 
.... I intended to send you wishes for your name-day, but I was 
not at home, I was working on the other side of the Vistula. I have 
worked for 5 weeks. I earned enough to buy a nice velvet dress and 
slippers, and I have also a watch. Perhaps later I will send you a 
photograph of my person. I am not going to sing any more, for I have 

no lime Although I am tired with work and burned with the 

sun, at least I have something to dress myself in Michalina is 

with us, but for the winter we want her to go away, because it is too 

difficult to live all together x Dear brother, I would ask you, 

I, Bronislawa, be so kind and add some money for a sewing-machine 

for me I will now go to work, I will work for some weeks, and 

if you offer me anything I could buy one But if you offer me 

anything, send it to my name, because those 10 roubles our parents 



1 Michalina's grandfather was evidently expected to retire and will her the 
farm, but he declined to do this and her father, counting on the grandfather's help, 
had failed to provide her with a sufficient dowry. So the young people find them, 
selves in a difficult situation. We see here, as elsewhere, that the retirement of the 
old people is a necessary link in the familial organization. 


The Wroblewskis live in the northeastern part of 
ethnographical Poland, in a relatively poor province. The 
family (whose real name we do not use) belongs to the 
peasant nobility and is relatively well instructed. It has 
lived in the same village since at least the fifteenth century. 
Twelve neighboring villages are chiefly occupied by de- 
scendants of the same ancestors, though their names have 
been partly diversified. The community of origin has 
probably been in a large measure forgotten. 

The main figure of the series is Walery Wroblewski, 
the author of most of the letters. His letters belong almost 
exclusively to the informing and relating type; their 
function is to keep up the familial connection between 
Walery and his brothers by sustaining and developing a 
common "universe of discourse" and a sphere of common 
interests. Thanks to this, the letters become particularly 
valuable for us. They give us, indeed, a full account of 
the fundamental life-interests of Walery, who in this 
respect represents very well the normal Polish peasant. 

The essential interest is clearly that of work, particularly 
of personal work. The salaried labor (as gardener at the 
governmental railway-station) plays in Walery 's life a 
purely additional part and is done merely for the sake of 
money, while his life-business is farm-work. It is the same 
with the average Polish peasant, with whom even the dif- 
ference between farm-work and salaried work is frequently 
expressed in a separation of economic aims: the farm has 
to give living for the whole family (lodging, board, fuel), 
better or worse according to its size, the value of the soil, 
etc., while any cash needed for clothes, pleasures, ceremonies, 



etc., has to be earned outside, by salaried work, either on 
a neighboring estate or through season-emigration. A 
peasant who does not need additional income from his own 
or his children's paid labor is above the normal; a peasant 
who needs additional income for living is on the edge 
between the farmer-class and the country proletariat. 1 

But the curious point in the present case is that the 
interest in work as such is already independent of its eco- 
nomic purpose, and that this independent interest is shown 
only with regard to the farm-work. Walery puts his whole 
life into farming, house-building, etc., and does not care 
much about his salaried work, in spite of the fact that the 
farm is not his own, while the money which he earns is his 
personal property. He complains continually about his 
insecure situation, and still he works for the pleasure of 
work. The interest is objectified. The same objectifica- 
tion is shown in his eagerness to learn everything about the 
farming of his brothers in America. 

The second fundamental set of interests is that of the 
family. It happens that we find here most of the possible 
familial situations: 

i. Walery 's relation to his father and brothers on the 
ground of the problem of inheritance. In this relation 
Walery, the oldest brother, as against the father and partly 
against Feliks, represents the old principles of familial 
solidarity according to which the family should act 
harmoniously as a whole, and the father should pursue the 
interests of this whole, not his own egotistic ends and of 
justice according to which the economic problems should 
be settled upon a moral as against a merely legal basis. 
This relation is expanded and complicated by the new 
marriage of the father. The stepmother is not an isolated 
individual, but the member of another family, and the 

1 Cf. Introduction: "Economic Attitudes." 


antagonism of interests prevents absolutely her assimila- 
tion to her husband's family. On the contrary, as no 
harmonious coexistence of the two families is possible, it is 
the husband, Walery's father, who loses all connection with 
his own family and becomes assimilated to his wife's 

2. Purely sentimental and intellectual relation between 
Walery and Antoni. 

3. Walery's relation to his first wife through her sickness 
and death. (See notes.) 

4. Walery's relation to his stepdaughter Olcia an eco- 
nomic and sentimental problem. (See notes.) 

5. Walery's relation to his children, and the evolution 
which goes on under the influence of changes in the economic 
situation and of the progressive manifestation of the char- 
acter of the children. He continues to work on the farm 
for their sake and out of interest in work; but his feelings 
change. As long as his first wife lives his paternal attitude 
is perfectly normal; he is the head and representative of 
the family. After her death he becomes merely a guardian, 
and his security and authority are shaken. But the children 
are small, and they may be as poor as he, for half of the 
farm belongs to Olcia, and thus a feeling of pity keeps his 
paternal attitude definite and strong. After the death of 
Olcia his children are the only rightful proprietors of the 
farm. But as they become older his personal situation 
isolates itself in his mind from that of his children, and a 
slight antagonism appears between himself and the oldest 
son, though he still hopes that the latter will eventually take 
the farm and care for him in his old age. Finally he marries 
again, new children appear, it becomes evident that his son 
cannot be expected to take him and his new wife and 
children, and his interests become almost completely dis- 
sociated from those of the children of his first wife. The 


sentimental connection is the only one left and even this 
seems weakened in the last letters. 

6. Walery's relation to his second wife. (See notes.) 

7. Walery's relation to his sister-in-law, Feliks' wife. 
This is only sketched, but in very distinct lines. There is a 
marked mutual hostility whose immediate cause is certainly 
economic antagonism, but it is prepared by the total 
estrangement resulting from the long separation and the 
quite different conditions in which Feliks and his family 
have lived. These facts illustrate two very general phenom- 
ena: (i) As we see in many letters, even a normal relation 
through marriage (to say nothing of an abnormal one like 
that resulting from the third marriage of Walery's father) 
is ceasing more and more to produce a connection between 
the persons thus allied; acquaintance and friendship, if not 
community of interest, are necessary to consolidate the 
relation. In other words, the assimilation of a new member 
has become more difficult and longer since the old type of 
peasant family began to disintegrate. (2) The estrange- 
ment brought by emigration to Russia is much more pro- 
found than that resulting from emigration to America. 
This difference, it seems, is due to the fact that emigration 
to America has become a more normal and ordinary course, 
always with the expectation of return, and that the emigrant 
is more or less identified in America with strong and nu- 
merous Polish communities. At any rate, the Russian 
life, with its weaker familial organization, exerts a more 
disorganizing influence on the emigrant. Another good 
example of this is found hi the Raczkowski series, letters of 
Ludwik Wolski. 

With regard to the religious interests, Walery's attitude 
is also the typical attitude of the modern peasant. His 
religious life ; while very strong, has mainly a social form. 
The individual relation to the Divinity, as expressed in 


prayer, vision, ecstacy, feeling of subordination, etc., is 
quite secondary as compared with the social side of religious 
reality meetings, public service, church-building, priest- 
hood, etc. We find the former attitude only once clearly 
expressed (No. 37). There are but slight traces of the old 
naturalistic religious system and little interest in the magical 

The social interests of Walery are limited practically to his 
relations with neighbors and acquaintances. He does not 
seem to play any active part in the political organization and 
activity of his commune the only political group in which a 
peasant can be active. But he is interested as an observer 
in general social and political phenomena, upon which he 
can exert not the slightest influence. The form of this inter- 
est is also typical for the peasant of the present time; it 
marks the transition from a total lack of such interests to 
the effort to influence practically the political and social 
organization, as we already find it among the city workers 
and to some extent among the peasants, and expressed 
in socialistic, nationalistic, and economic associations. 

The interest in plays and amusements is not strong in 
Walery, and is never so in peasants of his age, burdened by 
the heavy task of life. Social entertainments are, in fact, 
the only form of recreation which a peasant knows besides 
drinking and card-playing, which may be regarded also as 
forms of social entertainment, and in this character (not 
as independent amusements) are morally permitted. The 
variety of amusements is much greater among city workers. 
Nevertheless in the case of Walery we find a relatively new 
amusement photography. 

Walery's purely theoretic interests are turned toward 
natural, particularly cosmic, facts. It may be noted that 
in general popular books on natural sciences are the favorite 
reading of the peasants. 


We notice an absolute lack of one interest which prevails 
in many other series the one which we may term the 
"climbing" tendency. Walery does not try to get into a 
higher class, although the fact that he is a skilled workman 
(gardener) and the relative degree of his instruction would 
enable him to do this more easily than could many others. 

The lack of this tendency may be explained by the 
exceptional social conservatism prevailing among the 
peasant nobility of this province. Living for centuries in 
analogous conditions, with very few opportunities to rise 
to the level of the middle nobility, particularly since a 
political career was closed after Poland's partition, and 
economic advance hindered by overpopulation, poor soil, 
and lack of industry in this province, lacking the incentive 
to advance which was given to the peasants proper by 
liberation and later by endowment with land, the peasant 
nobility is more stabilized in its class-isolation than any 
other of the old classes. And there is little to achieve 
within the community by climbing. Walery tries perhaps 
to be the first of his village, but rather by personal qualities 
than by social or economic influence. 

He has some pride in his work, in his house, and his 
garden-products, but no vanity. And in general, the 
problem of social hierarchy seems hardly to exist for him. 
No determined attitude toward the higher classes is ever 

The only other type more or less definitely outlined in 
these letters is that of the father. His fundamental feature, 
by which his whole behavior is explained, is the powerful 
desire to live a personal life up to the end, in spite of the 
tradition which requires the father to be the bearer of the 
familial idea and to resign his claims on the control of 
economic and general familial matters when he is partly 
invalided by age and unable to manage those matters for 


the greatest benefit of the family. 1 In his struggle against 
this tradition, the old Wroblewski finally has no course other 
than to resign completely his place in his own family. In 
fact he becomes a stranger, and can thus live an unimpeded 
personal life. By marriage he gets, it is true, into another 
family, but the latter has no claims upon him. 

The other characters, as far as determined in the material, 
seem perfectly clear. 


Wr6blewski, a farmer 
His second wife 
"Klimusia," his third wife 
Walery, his son 
J6zef, his son 

Antoni (Antos), his son (lives in America) 
Konstanty (Kostus), his son (lives in America) 
Feliks, his son (lives in Russia) 
Walery's first wife 
Anna P., Walery's second wife 
Feliks' wife 
J6zef's wife 

Olcia (Aleksandra), daughter of Walery's first wife 

Waclaw W alery's children by his first wife 




55-57, FROM JOZEF. 

17 LAPY, January 2, 1906 

.... DEAR BROTHERS: [Usual greetings and generalities about 
health.] Your letter of October 29 I received on December 30. It 
traveled for about 2 months, and perhaps it lay in the post-offices, 

1 In this regard there is a striking likeness between himself and Franciszka 
Kozlowska (cf. that series), with this difference, that Kozlowska, as a woman, was 
never called upon to be the representative of the familial idea. 


because there has been a strike. All the trains stopped for more than 
a week, and afterward in the post and telegraph service there was a 
strike for 3 weeks. "Strike" means in our language "bezrobocie" 
and in Russian "zabastowka" ["stopping of work"]. It happens 
now very often among us, particularly in factories. Workmen put 
forward their demands. They want higher pay and a shorter working- 
day; they refuse to work more than 8 hours a day. Now everything 
has become terribly dear, particularly with shoemakers and tailors. 
.... Even now there is no order in the country, the whole time 
tumults about liberty are going on, because on October 30 the Highest 
Manifesto was proclaimed concerning personal inviolability, liberty 
of the press, etc. In a word, by favor of the monarch we have more 
liberty, because we are citizens of the country, not as formerly, when 
we were only subjects; now we are all equal in the country. Papers 
are published without censure, so they now write more truth, only 
all this is not yet fixed. The liberty of speech has also been given by 
the Highest Manifesto, and for this reason different songs are sung, 

as "Boze, cos Polske ' In short, thanks to God, conditions 

would not be bad, but still much trouble can happen, because there 
is no peace in the land, and even terrible things happen, as in Moscow 
and many other towns I 

1 The revolution of 1905-6 contributed greatly to the development of social 
consciousness and interest in political problems among the peasants. Up to this 
time those interests in Russian Poland were developed artificially, by patriotic 
agitation from the intelligent classes. Indeed, the relative simplicity and isolation 
of peasant life, together with the bureaucratic organization of the Russian state 
made it hardly possible for the peasant to understand that there was any relation 
between the real interests of his life and the more general political problems. The 
communal self-government allowed, within certain limits, the settlement of most 
of the problems of everyday life, but outside of the commune the peasant had no 
influence upon social and political life, and thus all the phenomena whose source 
lay in the state and in the economic organization law, military service, taxes, 
school-organization, official language, means of communication, prices of natural 
and manufactured products appeared to him as regulated once and forever by a 
superior and undetermined force. His attitude toward them was more or less like 
his attitude toward the weather fundamentally passive resignation, with some- 
times an attempt to influence with prayer or gift the powers in their treatment of the 
individual's own sphere of interests. (Cf. Introduction: "Social Environment".) 
The revolution of 1905-6 showed the peasant that this assumed order is modifiable 
and may be influenced directly and in its organization by human will; it showed at 
the same tune unknown and unsuspected relations between many apparently 
abstract problems and the facts of everyday life. 


At last I received your letter which I awaited so impatiently. 
. .... It is not right not to write for so long a time; for more than 
half a year we had no news from you. We don't ask you to send us 
money, because we still live as we can, but we request you to send 
letters more often; other people send them every month or even more 
often. Although they don't know how to write themselves, still 
they give news and ask for information about what is going on at 
home. I believe that you are interested to know, particularly now. 
.... Jozef was somewhat offended by your letter. It was impos- 
sible to avoid it. I had to give him the letter to read; if I had not, he } ? 
would have said that we have a secret, and this ought not to be I ' 
among us. 1 As to your coming, do as you wish, only reflect about iti i 
and write us positively this or that, because the farm cannot remain 
as it is now. If you don't intend to come, Feliks will agree to return, 
but I believe that he is too weak for farm-work. Nevertheless there 
seems to be no other way, because it will be difficult to repair the 
losses. I intend also to leave my position soon and to stay at home, 
because it is very difficult [to be employed and to farm together]. 
It will be worse at home for some years, I know it surely, but later 
on perhaps it will get better, if our Lord God helps, because " It is 
better to be in a sheep-skin with God than in a fur-cloak without 
God," and "As Kuba behaves toward God, so God behaves toward 
Kuba." 2 I sold the oxen in the fall and I bought one cow. I intend 
to buy one more in order to have 4. I intend to sell one horse and to 
buy another, because this one is bad for plowing, and I intend to 
plow with horses. I will keep two cows for myself and sell the milk 
of the two others. I bought also 7 geese; I don't know how they will 
breed. I intend also to carry out my plan of building a house. 

1 This is the last, reasoned explanation of the original and unreasoned fact 
that the letter is not individual but familial property. In this fact is to be 
found the fundamental function of the peasant letter hi general retaining or re- 
establishing the connection of the individual with the family-group when this con- 
nection has been weakened by separation. 

2 The confidence in God as shown in the belief that God will interfere practi- 
cally in human business is naturally more developed in isolated communities with 
little practical energy and a slow rate of life, and decreases near the industrial 
centers and in active and evolving communities. It is of interest that Walery, 
himself a very active person, still retains the attitude of religious fatalism perfectly 
adapted to the low intensity of the practical life of his environment but unadapted 
to his own character. 


Edward is going this year to school in Lapy ; I pay now for his learning 
50 copecks monthly, but when I leave my position [as gardner of the 
governmental railway-station] probably they will demand more. 
Both my horses had the strangles, and now they look bad. The 
winter up to Christmas was light. Now, since New Year, the 

weather is colder; it is already possible to go on sledges I 

don't remember whether I have written about building a church in 
Lapy. They intend to build first a chapel, and later on, when they 

have money, a church In our mill we grind corn, father for 

himself and I for myself, when the one or the other has time. Now I 
send you a salutation from us, and the children salute you Alek- 
sandra, Waclawa, Edward, Jozefa and MichaL We wish you every 
good. May God grant it. 


1 8 February 8, 1906 

DEAR BROTHERS ANTOS AND Kosxus: .... Now I inform you, 
that I will probably remain at my post, although I am not very glad 
because I don't know when I shall be able to do something for myself 
[build the house]. Every year I hope to do it and I cannot. Now also 
I was sure that I should remain at home, and a week ago I thanked 
for [resigned] my place. They gave me one day for reflection, and 
after this they were to say something to me. One day, then another, 
then a week passed and they said nothing. I was sure that they 
were trying to find somebody else. I was sure because last year it 
seemed as if they intended to change me, although when I thanked 
them they said that they were satisfied with me. After more than a 
week, when I went to the office for a ticket to go to Warsaw, the chief 
asked me whether I intended to remain or not. I said that I could 
remain on different conditions, but I did not hope to obtain them. 
I asked for some improvements in the service, and moreover for fuel. 
The chief said that he was willing to grant it. If so, I will remain, but 
I am not sure, because meanwhile it is only a promise; if they don't 
fulfil it, I will not serve. 

Everything else is unchanged. Father still provides for himself 
at home. He has threshed all his grain, but he has not yet brought 
the hay from the riverside, and now it is impossible to get through 
to the riverside, and I don't know how it will be, because now we have 
successively two days of frost and three days of rain. But when 


summer comes I don't know how we shall do. I don't know whether 
Feliks will come or not, arid father probably won't be able to keep 
the farm alone. If Feliks does not come, I don't know what will 
result, because father does not promise to work any longer on the farm. 
Perhaps he will finally sell it, although he could take somebody to help 
him, because he has money enough, but he does not intend to do it. 
.... On my farm there is also nobody to work. I thought that I 
should do it myself, but now nothing is certain; on the other hand, 

I want very much this little money which I can earn Now the 

church in Plonka has been robbed The thief stole into the 

church in the evening, was shut in there, took the money and fled 
through the window We have no weddings here, although 

it is carnival 


19 April 2, 1906 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... We will divide with you hi thought 
at least the consecrated food [swicone]. It is a pity that you will 
probably have no swiecone, because you are surely far away from the 
church. Well, it cannot be helped; you will probably only remember 
our country and nothing more. 1 But perhaps our Lord God will 
allow you to return happily; then we shall rejoice 

As to the money, when I receive it I will do as you wrote; I will 
give 10 roubles to father and will keep by me the remaining 240, or I 
will put it somewhere until you come back. Meanwhile my children 
thank their uncle for the remembrance and the promise. Spring 
approaches, but although it is already April, weather is bad, it snows 
every day. Some people have seen storks already; they must be 
wretched, walking upon white [snow]. 2 As I wrote, I have sold the 
oxen and bought a cow; I wanted also to buy another, but there has 
been no opportunity, because cows are bad and very dear. I have 
sold also the horse which you bought, for 62 roubles, and I have 

'The Easter wishes, dividing the "Swiecone" with the thought of absent 
relatives, are evidently means of preserving the family connection in spite of 
separation, and in the particular form which this connection assumes in group- 

1 An example of the sympathy of the peasant with animals. The peasant 
stories show that this sympathy developed to a very high degree. Spontaneous to 
some degree, it is also a vestige of the naturalistic religious system. 


bought another for 64 roubles. He is 4 years old, of the same color 
as the other; it would even be difficult to distinguish them, 
because the movement is also the same, only the other had white 
fetlocks on his hind legs, and this one is a little longer. I intend 
to plow with him and the two-year-old. Adam Drop from Plusniaki 
promises to plow. I bought this horse in Skwarki in the neighbor- 
hood where Frania Perkoska, the daughter of Wojciech, is now 
with her husband. I don't know whether I have written you, she 
married Kleofas Golaszewski. When you go from us to Sokoly, you 

have to turn near their barn, at the left, on the corner ' The 

wedding was in the last days of carnival and we were there at dinner. 
During the dinner I played on the phonograph of Jozik; he lent me it 
for that time. He bought it in Warsaw and he has a score of different 
songs and marches. 

Now I don't know whether I have written you about the mis- 
fortune from which only our Lord God kept our father. At the end 
of the carnival thieves came to steal horses, and father slept in the 
barn near the granary. He heard something tapping and got up and 
stepped out of the door. He saw something black under the wall 
and called, "Who is there?" The man shot with a revolver, but 
happily he missed. They ran. There were two of them. On the 
next day people found the bullet in the door. Father made a noise, 
and came to us and awoke us and other people, but they were not 
to be found. They went to Plonka, stole a horse and a wagon of 
gram and disappeared. So the misfortune ended. At present there 
are terrible thefts and robberies in our country. Highwaymen 
attack people on the roads and rob them, and in towns robbers come 
to houses, kill or threaten with revolvers, take whatever they can and 
usually disappear without any trace. And all this goes on since the 
strikes of the last year. Many factories stopped, workmen were 
turned out, and that is the cause of the present robberies. 8 

1 This kind of detailed information reminding the absent member of the family 
of the environment in which the family lives has evidently the function of keeping 
up the old common "universe of discourse" and thus maintaining the familial 

2 The real cause was evidently different. Although lack of work may have 
played a certain r61e in recruiting the bands of robbers, the fundamental reason 
was the disorganization of social and moral life brought by the new ideals, which 
for the mass of the people were not equivalent to the traditional social constraint 
in organizing practical life. (Cf. notes to Jasinski series, Nos. 757 ff .) 


After the holidays brother Feliks is coming to the farm, but 
mainly because he has no church there and nowhere to teach the 
children. But I believe that it will be too difficult for him to work 
on a farm. Well, but he cannot remain there either, because of what 
I have said. 

Now I inform you that in our holy Roman Catholic faith a new 
sect, heresy or falling-off has arisen, and the priests themselves produce 
it. The papers write that there are 50 to 70 such priests who call 
themselves "Maryawitas," and the people have nicknamed them 
"Mankietniks." They regard some girl, a "tertiary," as a saint, 
She dictates to them her different visions, and they believe her; they 
won't listen to their bishops, and they proclaim a doctrine about her 
that she was immaculately conceived. They have drawn some 
parishes to their side; people believe their erroneous teaching. This 
happens in the neighborhood of Plock, on the other .side of Warsaw 
from us. Those priests say three masses every day. The bishop 
sent priests to close and seal these churches, but the Maryawitas 
beat the true priests and did not allow them to close [the churches]. 
All this is going on at present. It is a she-devil, as a bishop writes, a 
certain Felicia Kozlowska, seamstress of priest-clothes, and therefore 
it is clear that young priests favor her. It is a horror to read in 
papers what is going on there; perhaps the end of the world is not far 
away. 1 

1 wrote you what I could about our country, although in short, 
for if I wanted to write in detail, I should need many sheets of paper. 
Now, please, write us about the mines. How are the passages to 
them made under the earth ? Are there any props ? What happens 
when coal is dug out whether they [the passages] fall in or stand ? In 
short, whatever may be new for us 2 


'The sect of the "Maryawitas" represented the first heresy in which the 
peasants had taken part for centuries. We shall have more details of this in 
Vol. IV. The "end of the world" is assumed whenever any great and general 
demoralization is noticed. It is of course dependent upon the eschatological 
Christian ideas. 

2 Here, as in many other similar questions, it seems as if the interest of the 
writer were purely objective, i.e., not determined by the fact that the conditions 
about which he asks are those in which his relatives live. But the effect is evidently 
the constitution of a new common field of intellectual life and thus the main- 
tenance of the group-connection, whether this was the conscious aim or not. 


20 April 25, 1906 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... I have remained in service. Here we 
have full spring; people sow in the field oats, peas and potatoes, trees 
blossom, storks, swallows and other birds have come back. I am 
waiting now for brother Feliks. He has already thanked for [resigned] 
his place and is waiting only for his pay and tickets for the journey. 
They will come very soon. Father looks for help every day. Now 
I send you some photographs made [by myself] at Easter. [Descrip- 
tion of the photographs.] We know from the papers that a terrible 
misfortune has happened in California, in the city San Francisco. 
May God keep us and you from this! [Salutations.] 


21 May 12, 1906 

DEAR BROTHER: .... I don't wonder that you wrote so [being 
ill], but I don't know why Kostus .... presented me to you in 
such a manner, as if I had done some mischief to him. He ought to 
understand that you, being sick, could not bear all this; in other 
conditions [you would look upon it] as a trifle. But in human life 
the road is not always strewn with flowers; there are many different 
thorns upon it. 1 

Now you know, probably, that I remain at home on my farm. 
Work is going on in the field, we are planting potatoes, and when we 
finish planting, we will set to building the house. I cannot buy that 
field from Tomasz Pal. After a long reflection he said finally, that 
he would sell it, but only if I gave him 150 roubles for the field near 
the garden. I offered him 80 roubles, but he does not agree. Later 
I heard from his servant that he would part with it for 100 roubles, but 
I am not in a hurry, because it would be too expensive. I could pay 
so much only if I had as much money as he has. 

Now I inform you that Jan Gluchy came back from America and 
intends to build his house in the garden near Stas. Before he came 
back, his wife wanted to build some sort of shack, but Filus did not 

want to give her a lot. He proposed the lot near my garden 

but it was too small for her. She was set on having father sell her an 
[adjacent] bed, but I did not wish to have such a neighbor so near and 

1 Allusion to some incidents which we cannot determine, as we have only the 
letters written to Antoni, not those to KostuS. 


I asked father not to sell; I was ready to pay it myself. But father 
has planted it himself. Later Filus proposed to give her the lot near 
the pond, but this was also too small for her, because there also she 
would be my neighbor. At last, after much begging, he gave them 
the lot near Stas Laba, and there they will build their house. Now, 
as people say, they hang dogs upon me [abuse me], especially Filus, 
because Jan got the best of it in getting that lot. 1 

Now as to the marriage of Jozef, our brother. I went with Olcia 
to the wedding, and after dinner I returned home. It was a week 
before the end of the carnival. Now, as I wrote already, he lives 
with his wife in the house of Stas Gembiak, and our father took a 
small boy from Kozly and is still farming himself. Jozef is planting 
potatoes for himself upon a part of father's land. I have now a 
dispute with Feliks Gembiak ; he crawled into my garden behind my 
house and plowed the part of the garden up to the fence. I will 
write you later how this ends. 

Spring is late this year, trees blossom only now, and last year they 
blossomed at St. Wojciech [St. Adalbert's day]. Now I have nothing 
more of interest to write, only I inform you, that our Michalek began 
to walk on the first day of Easter, and he says that Little God ordered 
him to walk, because He rose from the dead. Now he walks well 

enough, and he would like to walk the whole day in the yard 


June 30, 1906 

.... DEAR BROTHERS: .... First I inform you, that here in 
Plonka the basement for the new church has been made already; 
in a week, on Sunday, the consecration of the headstone will be 
celebrated. Now everybody is bringing offerings, whatever he can. 
If it is not very difficult for you, I beg you to send a little money. The 
priest proclaims every Sunday who gave and what the offering was. 2 
In Lapy divine service is celebrated in the chapel as in every church. 
They will also build a church. 

1 Most of the quarrels of neighbors are the result of the system according to 
which all the old villages are built, and which makes any increase of the area 
occupied by the single farm-yard impossible except by buying from a neighbor an 
adjacent lot behind the yard. (Cf. Nos. 26, 39, 40.) 

2 It is a question of family pride. By sending an offering the brothers in America 
would prove that they still consider themselves members of the family and com- 
munity and at the same time that they are in good circumstances. 


Now, on Corpus Christi day in Bialystok there was a pogrom of 
the Jews. Two processions walked around the city, one ours, the 
other [Greek] orthodox. Some persons began to fire from a house 
with revolvers on the orthodox procession. 1 Panic arose among the 
people, but it is said that nobody was killed by these shots. The 
army was called and fired at the windows; whoever looked at 
the street [was shot at]. Other robbers rushed to Jewish shops; they 
broke and stole whatever they could and killed Jews. About 600 
Jews were killed and many wounded. Along some streets all the 
shops were ruined. Next day in Lapy local vagabonds destroyed 
a few shops, but they are sitting now in prison. The Jews fled 
wherever they could, and so it ended. Now we have a state of war; 
the army is stationed everywhere. 

Yesterday we had a storm with lightning; rain poured down, and 
the hay is upon marshes. People began to mow grass although water 
stood upon the meadows, but now the hay will float. In the river 
water is also high, and it is impossible to mow. Probably there will 
be no hay this year, but in the fields everything is growing beautifully. 
In a week, if we have fine weather, people will begin to harvest rye. 
This year the spring has been warm, and the harvest will be early. 
I intend to go to Cz^stochowa [on a pilgrimage] with my wife and 
Edward about this time, but I don't know how soon the tickets will 

Now I inform you how farming is going on at home. Well, it 
turns out that Feliks cannot get along with the old people. Although 
he does work, he plows and carts manure, in short, he does everything 
necessary in farming, yet under the management of the old man it is 
impossible to work. He must dress himself and his children, and 
live, but the old man does not give any money; he keeps everything 
himself. He does not even give possible food. He wants to drive 
them away in this way the soonest possible, and that will probably 
happen very soon, and the old man will again sell [parts of his land] 
and gratify himself and the old woman. It will be enough for them 
both [the land will last as long as they last]. And now the quarreling 
is incessant. " Why did they come ? " But he wanted them to come, 
because he said, "I sell the ground because there is nobody to work." 

1 It is known that these shots were a provocation from Russian hooligans, 
preparatory to the pogrom. They were directed at the Russian procession in 
order to assure the sympathy or at least the passivity of the Russian 


And now, "Do as you please and get your living where you please!" 
So Feliks will be obliged to seek a job, and father will farm on in the 
old way, until there will not be a single lot of land left. If he lives 
long, then finally a bag and a stick only will remain from this farming, 
and that will be our only inheritance, because there is no possibility of 

getting along with father 


23 July 5, 1906 

DEAR BROTHER: .... I mentioned about brother Feliks, how 
they are farming at home. Now I will write you still more. As I 
wrote already, father gave him the farm to manage, but this lasted 
perhaps for two days; then father took it again into his hands. And 
then began the misery and quarreling. Feliks complains that he 
was wronged, that he lost his employment, and now father gives him 
nothing. He was angry with me, because I wrote him that father 
intended to give him [the management of the farm] and now he does 
not give it, or rather he gave it, but took it away. I began also to 
claim for their sake, that father was acting badly first so, then 
otherwise. Then father said, "If it is my fault, I will will them 
Kopciowizna [some part of the farm]. Let them work and help me 
to the end, then they will have this as a reward." I did not oppose 
this strongly, only I said that I could not decide alone, but that I must 
write to you and ask what you say, and meanwhile wait. So I wrote, 
but I have no answer yet, and they did not wait. At home they 
quarrel continually; Feliks complains about his misery, that he has 
enough work but not enough to eat that father gives them nothing 
to eat. Feliksowa [wife of Feliks] comes to me several times a day, 
and every time with a new complaint. Things went so far that 
Feliks and father took knives and axes. And she runs frequently to 
me, saying once that father wants to beat them, then again that he 
wants to drive them away from his home with hunger. Evidently, I 
did not praise father for all this. But whatever I said against father, 
Feliksowa reported it so to father that I [seem to] incite her against 
him, and she complained to father against me. At last all their 

knavery and meanness appeared clearly When brother 

Jozef came, he told me that when they quarreled with father, father 
gave the whole secret up and confessed it himself. He said, "I 
wronged the other [children] and willed you Kopciowizna, and this is 


your gratitude ?" x Up to this time all was done secretly; we did not 
know anything about it, neither I nor Jozef. Then I understood the 
whole thing in a different way, and I told Feliks everything about their 
meanness. I brought their anger upon me; they were provoked 
with me for telling them, "You have robbed us all, because you have 
done it secretly." 2 He said that father had forbidden them to tell. 
They circumvented father in some way during the fair in Sokoly, and 
father willed [the land] to them in such a way, that now he will own 
this up to his death, and after his death it will be theirs, as a gift from 
father, the remainder of the farm to be divided equally. After that 
they quit boarding with father and yesterday they moved over to 
Jozef Pilat, and live there. What happens later I will inform you 
in due time. I hear that they plan a law-suit against father and me 
for indemnity for their pretended wrongs. They will try to prove by 
my letter that I wrote them to come, that father intended to give 
them the farm to manage, and now he refuses, that he gave it, but 
took it away, etc., and so they are wronged. But I wrote him, "If 
you have to corne, reflect well about it." He answered, " I must move 
to my country because of my children." Well, and he came, making 
a good move ! I told him that he can now lie lazy for two years, since 
he has already [in the bequest] earned his full wages; he need not 

search for an employment Please write us your opinion about 

this affair. Perhaps this letter will find itself among the documents 
of Feliks? [Perhaps you will concert with Feliks against me and 
send him this letter.] But I don't believe it. 

I remain respectfully yours, but writing always the truth 


24 July 27, 1906 

DEAR BROTHER: .... On July 23 a day which will remain 
forever memorable for us I was with my wife and Edward in Czesto- 
chowa. It is worth seeing. I don't know whether I shall have such 

1 This act of the old man was evidently done with the intention of assuring 
himself of the alliance of at least one son against the others and of getting rid of 
his control without making him an enemy. It proves that the old man did not 
feel his position very strong morally, although he had legally full right to do as 
he pleased with his farm. 

3 The secrecy is particularly bad, because to the economic wrong is added a 
social wrong destruction of the familial solidarity. 


an opportunity again; it was the first time, and probably also the 
last, for it is far enough from us. But it would be worth seeing 
once more. Well, it will be as it pleases our Lord God, whether He 
will grant us the opportunity to be in a locality so renowned by its 
miracles, or not. Thanks be to God that we visited it at least once 
in our life. 

Now I inform you about Jan Ghichy. He is in New York and 
sends money for his wife. Not long ago he sent to my address 210 
roubles; I received it for her. Smaller sums he sends directly to her, 
and wants to send everything through me, but I don't wish to have 

trouble about other people's money r Now I send you one 

photograph, although a bad one, of the church of Plonka, taken on the 

day of the consecration of the basement On the same day a 

new cemetery was consecrated. [Description of the cemetery.] Now 
I inform you that we have already harvested the rye. The weather 
now is good, dry, even too dry. Only now we have begun to mow 

summer grain and hay The crops are mediocre, the potatoes 

won't be so good as last year 

Now I inform you about home and the conflict with Feliks. If you 
received my letter, you know already how it was about the willing 
of Kopciowizna how they did it secretly with father, then how they 
quarreled with father, how he moved to the house of Jozef Pilat. 
Now she remains here with her children, and he went to the old place 
in search of employment. He does not write me anything, because 
we are angry with each other. I told him that such things ought not 
to be done by cunning, but that he could have done all this so that 
everybody might know. He excuses himself, on the ground that 
father forbade him to mention anything to us about his having willed 
[the land] to them. But even now I don't know whether there is in 
this will any mention about the mill; probably not, and then I must 
move it away from that lot. Father is farming as he did formerly; he 
hires harvesters and drives the crops from the field, but I don't know 
how long this will last. When the old man goes to bed I don't know 
how he will do the farming. Feliks has received his part already, and 
if the old man does not change it, he will still receive an equal part 
with us. What ought we to do ? I ask you beforehand, how are we 

1 duchy evidently distrusts the ability of his wife to manage the money. 
In such cases the man in America attempts to exert a control over the wife through 
the medium of relatives and friends. 


to act ? In my opinion he ought to have only this lot and nothing 
more, and father ought to divide the remainder among us. Judge 
yourself. .... w w 

25 August 27, 1906 

DEAR BROTHER: .... Jozef told me that he also received a 
letter from you. Whether he answered I don't know, but he says 
that he is unwilling to go to America, because he has it here well 
enough. Now you ask me for advice, whether you ought to remain 
in the mines, or to return home, or to search for other work in America. 
Well I leave the decision with you, but in my opinion it would be 
dangerous to throw your work away just now, but rather [I advise 
you] to search first for other work in America and then to come back 
about spring, or to remain where you are meanwhile and then to come 
back. But don't take my advice. Whatever you do will be well, 
because I fear it may be as with Felus, though I don't believe that 
you could be so mean as he. 1 He curses me now ceaselessly for his 
own meanness. I wrote to him also: " If you are to come, first think 
it over thoroughly lest you regret it later." (And he [answered]: 
"I must move to my country for my children's sake.") And what 
has resulted ? He robbed us all, and he continually slanders me and 
father. The old man is somewhat guilty in not having given him 
what he promised; but he rewarded him, even more than is right, hi 
the will. And what does he want from me ? I have heard that he 
abuses me also in the letters which he writes to her [his wife], saying 
that he suffers misery by my fault. And why does he abuse me? 
Because I said the truth openly, that it is unfair to act in such a 
thievish manner; everybody ought to know what you intend to do. 
This pricked him, my telling him his fault to his eyes. But even if 
father gave him the whole fortune, still he would not get on so well 
as he did there. But whose fault is it ? Did he not know farm-work ? 
He ought to have known what work there is on a farm and what a 
life, and if he risked it he ought not to slander others now without any 

1 The responsibility of an adviser for the consequences of his advice is particu- 
larly great when the personal influence of the adviser is great, because, as we have 
pointed out (Introduction: "Theoretic and Esthetic Interests"), the peasant gives 
to the advice a consideration proportionate to the prestige of the adviser rather 
than the intrinsic value of the advice. In the present case the advice of Walery 
is the more weighty because he is the oldest brother. 


cause. I loved him like all my brothers, but now I hate him for his 
action, for such meanness; even a stranger would not do this, and he 
is a brother. Well, enough of this, let him bark what he pleases. 
But now, dear brother, I am even afraid to write my opinion. It 
seems to me that it would be the best to do as I wrote you above, 
because it seems to me that even if you had much money, but if the 
earth were to cover you, you would rather prefer to look once more 
upon your native country, even without a penny. And if you had 
some money in your pocket it would be still better. 

Now I inform you that summer has been dry this year. I walk 
with Edward through the marsh in shoes, to fetch horses from the 
pasture; the water has dried up everywhere. Edward rides also on 
the young horse; he drives him home. Now he will soon begin to go 
to school again in Lapy. I send you herewith their photograph. 
As you see they have all grown pretty well, only Michalek, your 
foster-son, is not there. He does not walk; he is somewhat ill; but 
perhaps he will get better. 

The crops are mediocre this year; on the Transfiguration of Our 
Lord there was no more summer-grain in the fields; everything had 
been harvested, because the weather was favorable. We are already 
digging potatoes. They are not so bad for such a dry season. In 
some places they even grew big. Yesterday Waclawa with Edward 
dug a whole wagon-load from the small ravine near father's enclosure. 
Waclawa tended geese during the summer, but there were not many 
of them. The 6 geese brought 23 young ones, for which we got 23 
roubles, and besides some worse ones walk about, which did not grow 
big enough. It would be well to make a road now to the pasture 
fields, because it is dry ; but in our village people don't unite. Nobody 
went to make it. I worked alone for some mornings, making the 
beginning, but I was the only one so stupid; all the others are so 
clever, and nobody goes to work, although it is difficult to get a better 
time. Why, laziness, stupidity and darkness will never make any- 
thing good! 

Now, since the Japanese war, there is much news in the country, 
but I won't relate it here, because whole newspapers would be neces- 
sary to describe all that is going on here. If you read papers, surely 
you know. You ought to subscribe at least to Gazeta Swi^teczna, for 
now all the papers write more truth, because they are published 
without censure. 


Up to the present father is farming alone, and I don't hear him 
complain that it is hard to work. He plows, he carts manure, and 
the work goes on. But how long will this last ? 

Last Sunday in Sokoly the basement of the new church was 
consecrated and I was there with my children. On the same day I 

photographed them in my house, or rather before my house 


26 October 29, 1906 

DEAR BROTHER: .... I received your second letter also, from 
which I learned about your misfortune, the bruising of your arms. 

Now I inform you first, that I intend to remain at home this year, 
unless any unforeseen circumstances happen. I do nothing but plan 
about my house. I bought this year more than 5 kop [5X60] flower- 
pots for my garden. As to the field from Tomaszek, I have not 
bought it yet. Although I am somewhat short of money, the thing 
could be done in some way or other, if he wanted to sell it. But what 
can I do ? Last year I went often expressly to him, asking him to sell 
it, but he declined under some pretext or other. He is willing to 
exchange, but I have nowhere [to give him a corresponding lot]. If 
I could only buy somewhere for him; but nobody wants to sell. 
And it would be very useful to me [to have this lot] near the garden, 
because Lapy is growing continuously. Now we have a chapel in 
Lapy, I send you its photograph. They are building now a small 
tower upon it. It is very convenient now with the churches. One 
can go where one wishes, either to Lapy or to Plonka; it is near in 
both directions. When returning from my work I enter the chapel to 
say the rosary, because now in the evening rosary-service is cele- 
brated by candle-light, and this looks very pretty. 

Now I inform you that Roch came home some weeks ago. I have 
not spoken with him yet, but people say that he was captured when 
crossing the frontier and was sent home by etapes [with criminals]. 
Now, as to the horse, father sold it in the summer for 60 roubles, and 
today perhaps he will buy something in Suraz, if horses are not too 
expensive, because there is a small fair today. Feliksowa has left 
again and went there to him [Feliks], having sold her things to Jozef 
Pilat. She sold the cow also which father gave them, because she 
lived in Pilat's house. She went like a swine, because she called 
neither on me nor on father before leaving for those forests. That is 


just where she ought to live, with bears, not with men. She was 
something of an ape before, and there she became altogether an ape. 
No honest person would have done as they did. Whose fault is it ? 
And how much they have cursed me, and father! May God not 
punish them for it. They think only about a fortune and money and 
don't want anything else; they don't regard church-going and fasting, 
if only they can live comfortably in this world. 1 

Now, as to Michalek, he is already better and begins to walk by 
himself. Edward has been sick recently with small-pox. Now he is 

getting better slowly We had a dry summer, and the autumn 

is also dry. There is lack of water in the wells, and the cold is not 
far away. If it goes on like this we shall have no water in the winter. 

Now in our country disorders still go on, sometimes robberies, 
sometimes killing with bombs or revolvers. Not long ago there was 
a pogrom in Siedlce, where the army even fired with guns for 3 days, 
as the papers write. Now we have a state of war; the general 
governor of Warsaw proclaimed that whoever does not come at the 
call to military service, his parents will be condemned for 3 months to 
prison or 300 roubles fine, and the head-minister added that in 
localities where the state of war exists whoever does not come is 
subject to court-martial. And what a court-martial is you know 
probably, and I won't describe it 

It would be well if Kostus thought sometimes about his native 
country and wrote something, at least about his health and success. 
Roch brought the news that he is married. Perhaps on that account 

ic has changed and does not write. 2 r . TT ,,, , 


February 24, 1907 

. . . DEAR BROTHER: I learned about the misfortune which 

happened to you This news dismayed us all very much, and 

we are very sad that such a misfortune happened to you. I got also a 
letter from Kostus today .... and I learned that you are somewhat 

1 Typical expression of the peasant's idealism, which is always latent in all 
the practical attitudes. There is a marked difference in this respect between a 
peasant like Walery and a handworker like Wladek. For the character of the 
latter, see Vol. III. 

2 There is a proverb, "Whoever gets married gets changed," which is justified 
in the sense that the individual is determined to a large extent by his family-group, 
and by marrying he comes under the influence of an additional group. 


better, and I learned also from him that a little miner came to him; 
only, please, let him send us a photograph of his family. I received 
also your other letter of February 4, in which you tell about your 
misfortune and write that I caused you a great displeasure by my 
letter that I gave you the last blow. 1 Believe me, if I had known 
that it would reach you when you were in such a condition, I would 
have chosen not to mention anything, but who could have expected 
anything like this ? .... If I made some reproaches, your own letter 
induced me to do it. You wrote that you keep company in which you 
cannot get along for a single day without beer or whisky. Then I 
wanted to draw you back from it, and therefore I made some remarks 
that this money would be useful here, and for whom [it would be 
useful]. 2 I had also had no idea, that you had any difficulties in 
sending money. I know only this, that if somebody has money and 
wants to send it, and has anybody to whom he may send it, he does 
send it, and does not write that it is difficult, unless he has none. 
But what happened between us is quite ridiculous. Well, never 
mind, let it be as you do it. Today, in your present condition, I don't 
want anything from you. But you were wrong in writing that you 
did not take any property with you. 3 I have none either, and it is 
possible that nobody among us will have any. I don't get any benefit 
out of it. If I want a bushel of corn, and if I take it from father, I pay 
him like any other neighbor. And what can yet happen with father's 
farm, nobody knows. As I said, it is possible that no one among us 

will get anything We might perhaps be able to prevent it, 

but we should think about it all together, because it is high time. 
.... I cannot prevent it alone, and perhaps you would not like it; 
so it is necessary to deliberate as soon as we can about father and the 

Now, as to Jozef, he got married during last carnival. He does 
not want to live with father, but he rented a lodging in the new house 
of Stas Gembiak, where he moved with his wife. He is serving as 
before. I have left my employment already, and since the first day 

of Lent I am home and will think about building my house 


1 The letter referred to is lacking. 

' Walery probably asked for the payment of some money which Antoni owed 
him. Cf. No. 29. 

3 Wrong because it looked like a hint that Walery was profiting from the 
common family property. 


28 August 15, 1907 

.... DEAR BROTHER: [Greetings. News about crops.] Now 
I inform you ..... that there is news. On August 7, after the 
Transfiguration of Our Lord, grandmother, or rather our stepmother, 
died. She had put aside some money, but had given it to the priests 
for the building of the church, 1 and different rags [dresses, etc.] which 
remained were stolen by her family even before her death, so that 
when she died there was not a single rag left; everything was empty. 
Even a hen disappeared during the funeral. Father asked a priest to 
come to lead the burial-procession, but without a speech, and so it was 
decided. But Mrs. Malinowska [some relative of the dead] did not 
like it and she requested the priest to thank [the dead] before the grave. 
Evidently she had some reasons to thank; the dead must have been 
good to her. Now we don't know how father will act; perhaps he 
will get married even for the third time. It would be very undesirable 
for us, perhaps even a great calamity. But what can be done, since 
father does not say anything about the future. He could very well 
live with me and Jozef , or divide the farm between us, and we would 
give him his living. We don't know how it will be. But if he gets 
married once more, we are totally lost. I ask your advice, how to 
prevent it ? 

Now, as to the building of my house, probably this year only the 
basement will be ready, I have no time to carry the building further, 
because I have enough to do alone on my farm. I lacked stones and 
I paid 8 roubles for half a cube which they brought me. There will 
not be enough lime, and other material will be needed. Meanwhile 
my money is almost out and my geese have died, and my pigs also. In 
short, it is going on very badly. Moreover, I have been already 3 
times in Markowszczyzna to fetch bricks for the church, and that is not 
the end of it. And I have still other work to do. Now, some boys 
from Kozly, who are in America, sent 1 10 roubles for the building of 
the church. The priest announced their names. Some lady from 

1 Walery is evidently provoked that she gave her money to the church and her 
clothes to her own family, so that nothing was left for her husband's family. The 
money was given by her to the church hi order to assure her soul's salvation. In 
this respect the peasant women show the most profound and reckless egotism. 
We have met a woman who has about 2,000 roubles and is still earning as a cook. 
She has a widowed daughter with small children, but never helps her and says 
openly that all her money will eventually go to the church to secure masses for her 


Bialystok sent also 100 roubles. In a word, offerings flow, but the 
parishioners are not in a hurry about bringing bricks, otherwise the 
church could be covered before winter. 

Now I ask you, dear brother, how about your leg ? Is there any 
hope that you will recover? How do you live there? Why does 
Kostus never mention himself or us ? Does he care no more for our 
father and for our country ? He could perhaps remember once that 
he has a father and brothers w WR6BLEWSKI 

29 October 7, 1907 

.... Now, as to that debt, please don't make yourself any 
trouble about it. Although it would now be useful to me, it is true, 
yet since you are in such a situation, you need it also. In the last 
necessity I can ask father to give me at least the interest, either in 
food-stuffs or hi a field to sow, since he sells now and then piece after 
piece to strange people. But as yet I defend myself against poverty 
as best I can. Now as to my building, the work advances only since 
St. Michael. It would be very well to do it now, because the weather 
is favorable, but I must often stop and go to other work. Jozef has 
helped me also more than once by preparing mortar. If the weather 
were good and the walls dried rapidly, the work would progress; and 
if there were somebody preparing mortar 

Now, I learned in Lapy that brother Feliks came here for some 
weeks, but he evidently does not want to show his eyes among us 
any more, because he went directly from Lapy by the Narew railway 
to Sokoly and thence to Jablonowo. Somebody asked him there why 
he did not go to Ziencinki. He said there was nothing to go for. 
And he came for a church-festival with his whole family [to Jablo- 
nowo]. That is nice, what he is doing! It is human to sin, but it is 
devilish not to repent and not to amend his faults. Because it is 
said, " If you want to offer a gift to God and you remember that your 
brother has anything against you, put your offering down near the 
altar and go and make peace with your brother," or in general with 
whomever it may be. But he forgot this for he does not want to .see, 
not only his brother, but even his father. Perhaps he will yet change 
his mind, but I doubt it, because in his letters to Jablonowo he wrote 
only curses against father and against me. 

Now as to our father, you wrote that Kostus advises him to come 
to America, where he could quietly spend the rest of his age with him. 


This won't be. Although I have not spoken with father about it, I 
know that he would not go. And why should he ? If he did not want 
to work himself on his farm, we could give him support but how can 
he part with his farm, leave the barn, etc. P 1 And Kostus deserves 
praise for having taken care of you, but he might work himself hi as 
dangerous a place, and if God forbid! any accident happened to 
him, with father in America, what then ? It would be very unwise. 
And we could then give no effective help, because if we sent 10 roubles, 
you would receive there only 5, and moreover it is so difficult to get 
money here, while from America, when you send 5, we receive here 10, 

and that is a different thing , TTT , 


30 N6vember 10, 1907 

.... DEAR BROTHERS: .... Now I inform you about my 
building. I have raised it up to the windows and I end here my work 
for this year, because winter is near, and there is yet plowing in the 
field to be done before winter, and some arrangements to be made 
around the house for winter. The autumn is clear and dry 

Now I pass to the news. I inform you that our dear father 
[ironical] got married for the third time. He took for wife that 
Klimusia, or rather Franciszkowa [widow of Franciszek] Pilat, that 
bitch, so to speak, because she came in order to rob us. Her children 
did not drive her away from their home, but she wants to profit out 
of our fortune. When father gave [money] for the banns, he did not 
mention anything to us, but did it secretly. When we heard the 
banns of our father, we went directly to him with Jozef , and we tried to 
persuade him in different ways not to marry. But he refused to 
listen, he wanted only to marry. We tried also to persuade her not 
to marry our father. About this time somebody broke her windows 
on All Saints' Day, and she throws the suspicion upon me; she had 
the policeman come and drew up a verbal process, and there will be a 
law-suit. I will write you how this ends; but she has no witnesses to 
testify who broke her windows. 3 I also begged our priest to dissuade 
father from marrying her, but even this did not help, because the old 
man stubbornly stood upon marrying her. On Wednesday, Novem- 
ber 6, the wedding was performed. We did not know anything about 

1 Ironical, meaning that he is too avaricious and egotistic to leave his property. 
3 Certainly the writer or his children did it. 


it, but I saw the old man coming back from the church, and I guessed 
it. On the very next day we went with Jozef to say good morning to 
the new couple and we greeted them so that it went to their heels 
[proverbial : They felt it deeply.]. The old man saw that he could not 
evade and promised to give us the small lots to cultivate, and to leave 
for himself the riverside and Uskowizna. So he got rid of us for this 
time, but "Promise is a child's toy"; we won't be satisfied with it, we 
will insist as strongly as we can that he do it black upon white [in 
writing], for us and for you also. We care not only about ourselves, 
but also about you, lest Klimusia get it. She is a cunning [avaricious] 
old woman, since she dared to go to marriage almost in the face of 
violence. I will tell you everything that happens. We want father 
to will us all, everything, and to keep to it, but we don't know how it 
will turn out. Of course, we except Feliks, because he has his part 
already. I wrote you that he was in Jablonowo with his family and 
did not show his eyes among .us. He was there for 4 days and went 
back, although I know that he had leave for 2 weeks. That is also a 
meanness. What is the matter with our family, that they keep 
things secret from one another, like thieves ? . . . . x 


31 March 25, 1908 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... I did not write, as I was waiting for the 
news which I expected from our father. We have called upon him 
more than once, with Jozef, asking him to make some division of the 
farm, but he got stubborn and refuses to do anything for us; only to 
his Klimusia he refuses nothing. We called upon him with the priest, 
then alone, then with people; nothing helps. 2 Once he took an ax 
to us and tried to frighten us; he jumped around wildly, like a mad- 
man. He gives us in words the field in Szalajdy to sow, but Jozef 
refuses to take it without a [written] will. I intend myself to harvest 
what I have sown, but I don't know how it will be later. Jozef 

'Expression of the feeling that the family is disintegrating. "Keeping 
things secret" is clearly a proof that there is no real solidarity. In the primitive 
peasant family no member can have any secret from other members; there are no 
purely personal matters. 

2 Calling with the priest and with people proves that in the general opinion 
the father is morally wrong in his behavior, that he ought to occupy the familial, 
not the personal standpoint. 


advises me not to do even this, but it seems to me that would be bad, 
for father will justify himself afterwards saying that he gave, but we 
would not take, and he will sell more readily. We also drove the 
Trusie [the stepmother's family] away from father's house, for they 
had settled their whole family already. Now at least they only call 
often. There would be much to write, whole newspapers would be 
necessary; in this letter the rest cannot be described. I spit upon all 
this, so to speak; if he is determined to waste all this, let him waste it; 
if his own children are not dear to him, only strange children, for 
everything there is free to strangers. 

At the end of the carnival Jozef Laba got his daughter married to 
the son of Fortus from Lynki. We were not at the wedding, but 
father with his Klimusia was there, and he got so drunk that he lay 
under the hedge. The next day he invited perhaps half the people 
from Gozdziki, but we were left out. Although I never overlooked 
father [in my invitations], he always keeps away from us, as from 
enemies. Well, I end it, because I loathe all this. 

[News about weather.] Now, a terrible thing happened. On 
March 23 in the village Somachy a score of robbers came in the evening 
to the Porowskis. "They found the whole family at home. They 
attacked Porowski and killed him with a blow on the head and 
revolver-shots, they wounded and bound the other members of the 
family, they took all the money they could find and fled, nobody 
knows where. This terrible incident frightened everybody. The 
next day I drove lumber from the forest of Kruszewo .... and I 
saw [mourning] banners on the house of Porowski, and I learned about 
this accident after coming to Matyski 

I made window frames during the whiter, and in the spring, if 
God grants health, we will set to work in the field and near the house. 
The walls of the house have been spoiled a little by the cold. Work 
approaches, and there is nobody to help. Although Michalek [3 
years old] promises to help, still I don't believe in the efficiency of his 
help. I will tell you something more about him. Mother laid upon 
him the duty of helping the poor. He asked why she let him give a 
grosz to a beggar. She answered, "In order that he may pray our 
Lord God to let your foster-father in America recover." 1 Now he 

1 The beggar is a religious personality, and giving of alms a religious act. In 
tales most of the beggars are either personifications of God or of the saints, or good 
magicians bearers of a beneficent divine power or at least instruments of the 


asks very often, "Has my foster-father recovered yet?" He is in 
good health, himself and Jozefa as well. The latter can read a book 

pretty well already. Edward goes to school in Lapy 


32 May 8, 1908 

.... DEAR BROTHERS: As always, I inform you also today 
first about our health, that we are all in good health, thanks to our 
Lord God the Highest, and we wish you the same. Only my wife is 
in rather bad health; for more than a year she has not been able to 
work much. She cannot eat much either; therefore she has no 
strength to work. She coughs incessantly and no medicine can help 
her much, neither doctor nor home-medicine. Probably it will end 
badly. [Remarks about letters received and sent.] 

We have spring already. All the birds are here larks, lapwings, 
storks, swallows, cuckoos, nightingales in short, all of them. But 

divinity. The function of the beggar is to pray, and not only his prayer, but also 
almsgiving has a magical importance, compels the divinity. This religious char- 
acter of beggary is shown also by the fact that beggars in towns stay around 
churches, that hi the country the parish festivals are the meeting-dates and -places 
of beggars, that "miraculous" places like Cz^stochowa are the main centers of 
beggary. This may be accounted for partly by the fact that hi these places and 
on these dates the largest crowds gather, but this does not explain it completely. 
The peasant gives alms more frequently to the beggar before the church than to 
the beggar upon the street; more frequently during a parish festival than on an 
ordinary day, more frequently in a miraculous locality than in an ordinary church. 
This is evidently because the religious character of the beggar, the value of his 
prayers and of his mediation before God and the saints, increase in proportion 
to the sacredness of the time and the place. The principle is exactly the same as 
that which determines the value of a mass. A mass said on Sunday is more valu- 
able than one on a week day, during a parish festival more valuable than on an 
ordinary Sunday, in a miraculous locality more valuable than in an ordinary 
locality. Further, the religious character of the beggar is proved by the conditions 
required for the acknowledgment of his occupation. Only the old man or the 
cripple can be a proper beggar, not because of any consideration of social utility, 
but because more or less consciously these features are considered the marks by 
which God destined them to this function. The proof that no utilitarian reflections 
play here any r61e is, that women, though less able to work, do not enjoy so full an 
acknowledgment of their begging function as the men. The woman, indeed, can 
be a member of the congregation or a divinity (saint), but not a priest, an inter- 
mediary between both. The women beggars are, on the contrary, often the 
bearers of a mischievous, magical character witches. The religious character 
of the beggar is perfectly expressed in the popular stories. (Cf. No. 261, note.) 


the spring does not progress favorably. We have St. Stanislaus [day] 
today, and the trees are still black and don't think of blossoming. 
Some years ago the orchards had blossomed already at St. Wojciech. 
Cold wind blows from all sides. I wasted all the food from my barns 
in feeding my stock; everything is empty. There was no hay. 
Moreover water flooded the potatoes in early spring .... and 
afterward they froze in the barns. Everything goes on unfavorably. 
Now my fields are already sown and I expect soon to begin building 
.... but my capital is exhausted, I must now ask father [for the 
debt], because .... otherwise I can do nothing. If God helps me 
to move to the new house perhaps it will go on better, for now I can 
change nothing, because so many things are commenced. I could 
return even today to my old employment, but I cannot because of this 
building; .... and if I could keep a garden at home, I should have 
a good bargain; people come themselves from Lapy, if I only had 
something to sell. These few hot-beds what do they amount to ? 

As to our father our fortune runs out in different ways; one feels 
oppressed inside at seeing how the care of us all [what we have worked 
for] is wasted in vain. But what can be done, since there is nobody 
among us to look after this, strange people benefit now 


33 J une 2 9> 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... My wife is unwell all the time, and I 
don't know whether she will recover. Although much money has 

been spent, no improvement can be seen 

Now I inform you that I got from father the money which I 
needed so much, but after much bargaining. When I mentioned it, 
he talked without end ; he told me to bring a law-suit. At last he saw 
that he could not extricate himself by shifts and he paid it back. 
But what happened then? Instead of the 100 roubles he sold the 
riverside near Bociany to Roszkowski, from Ziencinki, for 300 roubles, 
because Marcinek [Roszkowski's son] came from America and brought 
money. That is the way it goes on with us. And he could have paid 
the debt without selling anything, for not long ago he got 100 roubles 
from Stas Laba which the latter had borrowed from him. But this 
money surely fell into the claws of Klimusia. Finally, he could have 
borrowed, if he had no money, or by giving a mortgage on the meadow, 


he would also have got 100 roubles; or he could have sold somewhere 
a lot for 100 roubles, but not so big a one for 300. Everybody says 
that the riverside is worth about 400. In this way our dear father 
gets rid of land and rids us of it at the same time. Jozef went to 
remonstrate with father, for wasting the fortune so. They almost 
fought. Father jumped upon Jozef with a yoke [for carrying buckets] 
and Jozef took a pole. The old man brandished his yoke so that he 
broke the pole. At last Jozef sprang forward and wrested the wood 
from him, and so they separated. I was not there at that time, but 
Jozef came back and told how it was. The old man said that we are 
bad. "Why did I ask for the too roubles?" Does he think I am 
going to give him my work for the benefit of my enemies, that they 
may have more and live better? He does not give us his fortune, 
which justly belongs to us after him, and he wants us not to claim this 
[our own money] until he wastes everything and there is nothing left 
from which to recover [the debt]. He said that you had sent money 
as if for a joke [so little]. But I told him that it was lucky, for now 
our dear father would not care even if you were dying there from 
hunger. Why do other people not act in this way ? What shall we 
do now ? Perhaps it would be best to help him to finish it the soonest 
possible! Let there be no more of this grief and this sorrow! One 
cannot bear it, seeing how strange people profit from us and grow 
rich from the fruit of our labor. [Sends a photograph of the house 
which he is building and of his family; describes the photograph.] 

W. WROBLEWSKI and A. A. W. E. J. M., 

[initials of other members of the family] also Wroblewskis 

34 November 22, 1908 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... First I inform you about the building 
of my house, that it is covered already with a roof, but inside there 
is still much to do; nothing yet is finished. [News about weather.] 

In the spring I intend to move the granary The worst is that 

I have spent all my money; but if God grants us health, with some 
pains everything will be done. People praise my house; many have 

said already, that I have adorned all Ziencinki with it The 

granary and barn must be moved, because it will be very inconvenient 
H they remain. There will be much work in moving them. Now 
I know how much work it costs to build a house and to do everything 


with one's own hands, but perhaps our Lord God will yet help me to 
do this also [transfer the barn]. Now I don't know what to do with 
that unlucky mill. I cannot take it down alone without breaking it. 
I pay about 4 roubles taxes yearly for it, and I drive my grain to grind 
to strange mills, because it is not worth grinding in it only loss of 
time and repairs. Father drew out long ago; he refuses to help in 
paying the tax and in repairing. If I found an amateur [one who 
wanted it] I would sell it, and if not, I must demolish it the best I can 
for it is impossible to pay so much and to have no benefit. At least 
there will be some fuel. It cost money enough, and there is no use 
from it. [Description of the last summer and autumn.] Now I 
inform you that Felus Laba is dead .... and his son has got 

married Brother Jozef received your letter about the accor- 

deon, and certainly he will attend to it when he has money. .... 
My wife is always the same, she cannot work at all. She does 
not lie down continually, but there is no help from her. It is a great 
damage for me. The girls do everything alone. Edward goes to 
school in Lapy. After this year he will have still two years to learn 
in order to finish the school. Jozefa is learning already to read 
Russian. Michalek is at least in good health; he calls for bread as 

soon as he wakes 


35 December 22, 1908 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... I inform you that last Friday I received 
from the post-office in Lapy 80 roubles through a money-order in which 

there is no mention from whom it comes Surely it is from you, 

and surely for the purchase about which you wrote in the previous 
letter I will wait for word from you. 

Now I inform you that my wife is already very ill; when you read 
this letter, dear brother, probably she will be no more among the 
living in this world, and if God grants you to come again to our 
country, dear brother, you will see your sister-in-law no more. We 
are sad, and we shall have sad Christmas holidays, although they will 
come in a few days. But nobody knows what will happen. Not 
long ago we brought the priest to her. There was no hope of her 
living up to the present. Like this candle which is burned almost to 
the end and is already going out, so is her life; it will soon go out, and 
we shall remain in deep sorrow. 


As I wrote you already, I am now in a very bad situation. I 
have spent all my money and shall be obliged to borrow about 100 
roubles when the funeral and the moving of the barns come. 1 So, dear 
brothers, perhaps you could do it for me, and lend me [this money]. 
I beg you, if you can. But probably it is difficult for you now. In 
that case I shall be obliged to ask for a loan in the communal bank. 
I should not like to let people know that I lack money, though I hope 
soon to get rid of this debt. But I must borrow somewhere now, 
because the moving of the barns cannot wait until I have cash 


36 February 2, 1909 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... I received the letter in which you 
wrote how to use those 80 roubles and we acted according to it. 
Jozef had a suit made for which he paid 32 roubles, but it will prob- 
ably be somewhat difficult to send it. Probably somebody going to 
America will take it and send it to you. We gave for the holy mass 
which was celebrated on January 18 at which we were I, Olcia and 
Jozef. Now I thank you very much for that money which you sent 
to buy gifts for my children .... because it was very useful to us 
at that time. If God permits, we shall be able perhaps to prove our 
gratitude in some way. Meanwhile we remain indebted to you and 
we all thank you once more. 

Now I inform you that my wife is still alive, although before 
Christmas we did not expect her to live through the holidays. And 
we don't know how long it will last; but she will never more have 
health. If we could only move from here to the new house [before 
she dies]. 

1 This anticipation of the funeral expenses while his wife is still alive, and in 
general the calm foresight in speaking of her imminent death are not a proof of any 
coarseness of feeling. It is the normal, traditional attitude of the peasant toward 
death. Death is a perfectly normal phenomenon for the peasant, normal not only 
in the naturalistic, but hi the sentimental sense. It has a perfectly established and 
predetermined social and religious meaning, so that the individual reaction toward 
it has a very narrow field of unexpected possibilities open within the range of the 
traditional attitudes. And the practical anticipation of death belongs precisely to 
the sphere of these traditional attitudes. Moreover, the practical side of life has 
nothing base hi the peasant's eyes which would make a connection of death and 
money-affairs unsuitable. (Cf. Introduction: "Religious Attitudes," and note to 
Osinski series, No. 69.) 


Spring will come, and during spring I have a great task to accom- 
plish. I want to clear everything out of this place before the sowing- 
season, in order that nothing except the ground may be left here. 
I want to move the barns, to sell the house to somebody who will take 
it away, to transplant different shrubs which are good and to destroy 
these which are not good, and all this will require much work. The 
new house is not ready either; there are neither ceilings nor floors, and 
the middle-walls are also not quite ready. But if I can. prepare at 
least one room for summer, we can move, and then before winter we 

shall finish the rest And I have still threshing enough up to 

the end of the carnival There will be much work and many 

expenses from now on. But if God allows us to win, then perhaps we 
shall be able to arrange everything better about the home, being rid 
at last of this detestable neighborhood, with this street and [adjacent] 
barns and everything, that I cannot enumerate here, but of which I 
have had enough The winter is steady, cold and good sledge- 
road, but there are neither weddings nor visits, and probably there 
will be none, because the end of the carnival is approaching. And 
even if there were some, we could not amuse ourselves. [Meaning 
not clear: "It would not be suitable," or, "We should not be 


W. W. 

37 March 21, 1909 

DEAR BROTHERS : . . . . First I inform you, dear brother Kostus, 
that I received both your sad letters, for which I thank you. I went 
on Sunday to the post-office for the paper and I received the two 
letters at once and I knew by the writing that they were from you, 

and I had at once a bad foreboding I was not mistaken for 

.... I found such terrible news about the breaking of the legs of 
Antos. What misfortunes came one after the other! Evidently 
God is putting us to the test. For, as it is said, "Whom God loves, 
He gives him crosses, and who bears them meekly, becomes happy." 
And perhaps God punishes us for our sins or for the sins of other 
people? Still we must submit to the will of God, because it is said: 
"Oh Lord, here cut me, here burn me, but in eternity pardon me." 
And you know that our Lord God inflicted upon St. Job such a terrible 
calamity, that being rich he became a lazar, and yet he said: "The 
Lord gave, the Lord took away, blessed be His name." For what 


have we of our own ? Nothing. Fortune and health, everything is 
from our Lord God. 1 And the worst misery for man is if God takes 
the latter [health] away from him. 

I have still another great sorrow besides our brother's misfortune. 
Hardly did our brother get out of one misery when another, one 
worse still, befell him. In the same way it goes on in my home. My 
wife has been ill for two years, and now since autumn she has not 
risen from her bed. She has dried up like a skeleton, and we look 
only for the time when she will close her eyes. Twice already we 
brought the priest with our Lord God, and we thought that she would 
be in the tomb long ago. But now there remains only a short time 
to live, we think a few days perhaps. Therefore I am very sad, and 
now from two sides. But what can I do ? I owe money already to 
brother Antoni, and now I must contract a still greater debt for my 
needs, and if it is necessary, I must try to send him [money]. Write 
about this, for .... I am very badly off for money now, with this 
building and the sickness of my wife. Surely I shall have to bury 
her soon 

I am planning now to move the barns to where the new house 
stands. It will require work and workmen, because I cannot do it 
alone. And this makes me sorrowful, for I build everything as if 
upon ice, as people say, because what do I own here ? Everything is 
my children's property. But it is difficult to do nothing. Perhaps 
[my reward will be] that I shall live my last years I don't know how 
and where [my children will perhaps drive me away], but I cannot 
leave them now and go somewhere else. [News about weather.] 


38 March 31, 1909 

"Praised be Jesus Christus!" 

DEAR BROTHERS: "The world will rejoice, and you will weep," 
so said Christ our Lord to his disciples. And so it happened with 
me, because everything in the world rejoices at the coming of 
spring, and I remain in a heavy sorrow after the death of a person 
so dear to me. 

1 This is the only clear example in this series of a mystical subordination to 
the will of God. There are a few examples in other series, e.g., Cugowski series, 
No. 314. 


On March 31 died Anna Wroblewska, born Gonsowska, having 
lived 46 years, after a long illness, provided with the holy sacraments. 1 

I send you today the sad news of the leaving of this world by my 
wife. I am still more grieved about the misfortune which befell you, 
brother. 2 God puts us indeed to a heavy test, but let us be true to 
him unto our death, and He will give us the crown of eternal life. 

Dear brother Kostus, write me as you can, what is the condition 
of Antoni, how is his health, whether there is a hope that he will live. 
And when he gets out of this misery, let him not grieve about his 
further life. Perhaps our Lord God will grant us that if we are in 
good health he will find some support with us. It is true that I am 
now left as if upon ice, .... because everything there is belongs to 
the children, but with the children I can live in some way, and if God 
grants them not to be bad, we could perhaps keep our brother also. 
Now, although we are in such a difficult situation, I begin the work 
of moving the barns. I will now end with my children what was 
before intended with my wife. 3 When we do this, with God's help, 
it will be perhaps somewhat better. We shall be able to do something 
with the garden and this will give us a better possibility of living. 

Now I refer to our father, how well disposed he is toward us all. 
When my wife was sick neither he nor his Klimusia showed them- 
selves, although the priest passed by twice with our Lord God. All 
the people from the village called upon us, but they did not call. 
And they did not come either for funeral and burial, although I asked 
[him]. That is a good father! He has disowned us, but he has 
renounced God also, because he would not come to honor Him in the 

1 The form of this announcement is evidently imitated. The first part reminds 
us of the beginning of a funeral speech, the second part is a typical official death 
notice. The man keeps in his whole correspondence about his wife's death within 
the strict limits of the socially sanctioned attitude, with sometimes a slight individ- 
ual sentiment. (Cf. No. 35, note.) 

3 With the strong familial feeling of the Polish peasant, an attachment to 
brother or sister greater than that to husband or wife is not an exception. It 
would probably be much more frequent, were it not for the fact that marriage 
creates an active community of interests which strengthens the mere sentimental 
and sexual attachment. This explains the fact that whenever the husband or wife 
comes to live with the family of the other, i.e., when no separate household is 
constituted, his or her position is very difficult, because the old familial connection 
of the other remains stronger than the new marriage connection. 

3 This hint of a personal sentiment and one in No. 43 are the only ones made 
by Walery with reference to his wife. 



most Holy Sacrament. He said that he did not know. But who can 
believe it ? The whole village knew, he alone did not know. I told 
him that perhaps he saw at least the [mourning] banner when the 
wind waved it for almost two days. He muttered something, and 

so it ended * 

I cannot even send you wishes for the approaching merry holidays 
of our Lord's Resurrection, because I know that they will not be 

merry for either you or me 



May 16, 1909 
In the Green Holidays [Pentecost] we 

intend to move to the new house .... because here the house 
stands alone and on a bare place; everything is cleared away, the 
barns moved there; we live here still only until the chimney and 

stoves are built in the new house Although there are no 

ceilings and floors we shall move, .... and finish the rest before 
winter. My farm buildings look very good now; I put both barns 

on the side of the road and between them I made a gate-way 

The sties are on the edge of the field If I have the opportunity 

to make a photograph of the house, I will send it to you My 

brothers-in-law helped me for some days, only brother Jozef could not 
make up his mind to come and help; .... he did not refuse, but 
before he came we had done everything. Now we shall have a 
dispute with Kazimierz Plaksa. He has here now too much and too 
little room at once, for he will have no way to drive behind the barns 
if I make a fence from the road-side. He bought a strip near us from 
Piotr Pilat for 70 roubles, in the hope that we shall cross it and then 
he will have the whole road, his own and ours, but I don't know 
whether I will cross it .... at any rate not at once 


40 June 13, 1909 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... Now I inform you that I had some 
luck also. Before Pentecost I was invited by the priest in Plonka t 
plant flowers in his garden. I did not refuse, although I had enouj 

1 This is a proof that the father hi fact no longer considers himself a mem 
of the family. For a relative not to assist at a funeral is unheard of. 


work of my own. When I had finished the work the priest's coach- 
man was going to Lapy to bring the priest's sister, and he took me 
home. Suddenly the mare ran away and .... overturned us with 
the carriage. I got a terrible blow upon my leg. Three weeks have 
passed .... and I cannot walk without pain. May God grant 

me to recover before the hay-harvest, or else it will be bad 

We are living in the new house Upon the old place there is 

nothing more, no trace left I sold the house for 56 roubles 

and I gave them directly back, because I had borrowed exactly as 
much from brother-in-law Feliks for the funeral and for the moving 
of the buildings. Well, after long bargaining, I exchanged with 
Kazimierz Plaksa some land for the road. Though he barked enough 
he had to give what I wanted. He had said that the road would be his 
without anything, because it is common. Well, for this "common" 
road he had to give me the hillside opposite the old gate .... and 

I gave him my road up to his house He had bought from 

Piotr Pilat a bed near my garden with the idea that I would cross it 
[with the road] and then he would have the road. He had paid 70 
roubles for it rather expensive. But I did not want it, because there 
are minors who have a part [in Pilat's property; therefore, the 
proposed combination was not to be considered quite secure]; let 
him rather keep what he bought. It looks ridiculous; he had bought 
it for me and I did not want it. I shall now have much to do still 
before I have everything in proper order, but people are already 
praising me and saying that I live as in a small manor. The house 
does not look bad and the barns look good also. The fruit trees have 
grown well enough; they blossomed this year; a few bee-hives all 
this together looks pretty good. I send you a photograph of my 
house, although a very bad one. It is the front- wall, 3 windows in it; 
a fourth and fifth in the side- wall, near the door; before the door a 
sort of a veranda; upon the roof two vanes turned by the wind, in the 
other side-wall two windows and in the rear also two windows. Alto- 
gether 7 ordinary windows and 2 big ones near the door [News 

about weather.] 

W. W. 

[Two letters, dated May 16, and June 13, relate the moving into the 
new house, the transfer of the barns, an exchange of land with Plaksa, 
minute description of new house, etc.] 


41 September 29, 1909 

DEAR BROTHERS :....! received from you the letter for which 
I had waited so long, and I learned the curious news that brother 
Kostus has bought such a big farm. This pleased me very much. 
I am almost carried away. Could I have such a fortune, or even the 
half of it! There are probably about 60 morgs, and I have 7, and 
these are in more than 40 places; and even with these 7 morgs I don't 
know how it will be, because Olcia can take half of them. People are 
already instigating her. If it happens so, I don't know what I shall 
do with the other children. And surely she won't be long with us, 
because people want to extort this small bit of land as soon as possible. 
Envy does not sleep. My late wife foresaw it and told me before her 
death that when I built the new house and everything looked better 
there would be terrible envy. And so it is. If she had lived, it 
would be only half a misery [not so bad], but now I don't know how 
it will be. To remain alone with the children would be bad. To go 
anywhere into the world would also be impossible. How could I 
leave these little ones alone ? There will be nothing to farm upon ; 
if it were at least as it is now, one could live along, though not without 
difficulty. (People have often talked of my marrying Olcia, that it 
is possible. I asked the priest about it. He told me that there have 
been such situations and people have asked for permission, but that 
it is not possible in any way. Although different difficulties about 
property have been exposed, it has been refused.) Here I stop 
[writing] about this. 

Now I want to ask about this farm which Kostus bought, in what 
country it lies, whether there is a town near it, whether there can be 
a good sale of agricultural products ? Still I believe that if he found 
his way before and could gather money enough to buy such a farm, 
he surely will know how to manage further and pay the rest. And 
if the garden is in a good state and the town is not far away, it can 
give a good income. And also it is necessary to cultivate those plants 
which can be sold most easily. 1 


1 The fact that Kostus has bought a farm creates between the brothers a new 
community of interests and strengthens the familial connection. All the following 
letters are full of agricultural details, advice, information, experiments (mainly 
omitted here). In spite of the passage of time, the correspondence remains as 
animated as it was at the beginning of their separation. 


[Two letters, November 14, 1909, and January i, 1910, contain advice 
about farming and gardening. Writes that his house has been reproduced 
in Gazeta Swiqteczna. Complains that he cannot get along alone with the 

42 February 22, 1910 

DEAR BROTHERS: [Weather, early spring, larks and bees have 
appeared, farm-work.] Thanks to God, we have not so much trouble 
as last year. This has been a very hard year for us after the loss of a 
wife and mother 

Now you asked me, dear brother, to write about our father. ' I 
can say that, although we don't live far from each other, I don't know 
anything about him, for he never comes to us and we never go to him. 
Why should we go, since he has disowned us. He said that he did not 
want our tutorship, that he will get on pretty well. It is true that 
he gets on pretty well, because from time to time we hear that he has 
sold some gully or patch. He keeps Klimusia and her children; they 
are all there continually, so we have no reason to go there. It is sad. 
But what can be done ? I am happy only when I don't remember 
him; then my heart does not pain me. But whenever I recall it all 
I am very sad. If he were a father loving his own children and not 
those of others surely we should all be better off now. It is all right 
when strange brats ["bachory," contemptful word for "children"] 
creep upon him from all sides like vermin, but he refused to live with 
his own children. I am not of his age today [it is natural for old 
people to live dependent on their children] but I live with my children 
upon their fortune, and still I don't weep. I commend myself to 
God's care and I live along. For me in my actual situation it is very 
bad that he did so, but may God's will be done. [Asks about the 
exact place of the brothers' farm upon the map, about the corn, 
vegetables, trees which grow there.] In our village and neighborhood 
a great deal is changed, it would seem strange to you now. And as to 
Feliks, I don't know for certain his address, because he does not write 
to us at all W. W. 

43 March 8, 1910 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... I thank you for your letter; I learned 
much from it about what grows there and how things are paid. I 
understood everything. Now I describe to you my farm-stock. I 


have two horses, one 6 and the other 3 years old, two cows, both have 
calved now; for the milk which I send to Lapy I get 6 roubles monthly, 
.... for 2 calves I got 7! roubles, .... I have 2 old sheep and 
3 young ones, 2 pigs, 4 hens, a dog and a pair of turtle-doves, and that 
is all my farm-stock. [Describes prices, probable crops, farm-work, 
weather, new churches in Lapy and Plonka.] 

Now there are many changes in our village; Jozef Laba built a 
new house, Boleslaw a new one, Stas Gembiak a new one, Roch a new 
one, Jan Gluchy a new one. Gluchy has gone now for the third time 
to America, and Roch is in America again. I moved to the new place. 
Where it was there is nothing, and where there was nothing, there it is. 
Now I have it nice and comfortable, everybody says that it looks like 
a manor, only it is a pity that mine [my wife] is not there and that I 
still have a few roubles of debt. But the latter would be a trifle 
if she lived. Now there can be a bad misfortune for me with the 
children, especially with such a difference of age. Now all of them 

would like to learn, but there is nobody to work for them 

[Advises them to keep bees; sends wishes for Easter.] 


44 April 23, 1910 

.... DEAR BROTHERS: .... I received your letter with the 
picture-patterns for [Easter] eggs, for which we thank you; we have 
no such yet. America is always the first to invent anything. 
[Weather, farm- work, crops.] The seeds called "pop-corn" which 
you sent me sprang up, but the cotton has not yet come up, though it 
was sown long ago. 

Now I inform you more about my condition. In the introduction 
I wrote that we are in good health, but not all of us, for Olcia coughs 
too much since carnival. 1 She does different things but all this does 
not help. I went with her to a doctor, he gave a medicine and advises 
her to work in the fresh air. He said to me, "May it not be with 
her as with her mother!" He says that her left lung is weak. Now 
there is almost no work from her, she stops to rest every moment. 
At home lack and disorder are growing. I don't know what will come 
of it. There is work enough for women at home, and there is nobody 

1 An instance of the purely formal nature of the introductory news about 
health, prosperity, etc. 


to work; everything is torn and worn, and there is nobody to make 
anything. I hope I may be not obliged to look for some woman [as 
wife], for I am not very willing to do it. 1 As long as this one was in 
good health, we were going on more or less, although with difficulty; 
but now it is indeed a misery; there is nobody either to govern or to 
work at home. I give directions and leave the house; when I come 
back, nothing is done. The one cannot, the other [the boy] is too 
lazy. They are quarreling continually. [Sends vegetable seeds to 

be tried in America.] TT7 , T7 , 


45 May i, 1910 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... I thank you for your letter. Now it is 
somewhat clearer to me about America. I learned much from your 
letters, what grows there, what are the prices, and in what locality you 
are settled. [Weather, crops, prices, farm-work.] We have this year 
enough to eat and work enough, but too little money. Thanks to God, 
at least I am gradually getting rid of my debts. It is bad that at 
home there is nobody to keep the house. Too much trouble for me. 

1 It would be interesting to know why he does not wish to remarry. He is 
certainly not deterred by the remembrance of his first wife, as such sentiments are 
absolutely strange to the peasant's traditional attitude. There are only two pos- 
sible reasons his attachment to Olcia, or his unwillingness to Introduce an Incal- 
culable element of change into his life. -But the latter supposition is less probable, 
because he does not hesitate to marry after Olcia's death, and because, as far as 
we see, there is no example of any fear of remarriage among peasants. His attach- 
ment to Olcia does not express itself openly, because of the unlawfulness of such a 
feeling. Still, it can be inferred. He mentions that Olcia sometimes accom- 
panied him to entertainments, ceremonies, fairs, etc., and he had the idea of marry- 
ing her. Even if this idea was mainly determined by economic considerations, the 
sentimental and sexual elements were hardly absolutely lacking; these are almost 
always present hi peasant marriages, even in men of a rather low level of intellectual 
and moral development, while Walery is certainly a peasant a little above the 
average. Finally, even if the love-element was originally absent, this idea of 
marrying Olcia made the man look upon her in a new way, as upon a woman, and 
some degree of love must have developed, particularly if we remember what an 
influence the conscious idea and its expression in words have upon the feelings of 
the peasant. 

Some indications can be found also in letter 48. Walery writes there of Olcia's 
death in a much more informal personal way than that of the death of his wife. 
He mentions also that Olcia wished to will to him her part of the inheritance, but 
this may have been caused only by the usual familial attachment. At any rate, it 
is probable that his feeling for Olcia was only half-conscious. 


But what else can be done ? If mine [my wife] were living everything 
would be well, and so even all this rejoices me not much, although the 
farm is in a better order and the buildings nice 

Now I mention what you wrote about the comet of Halley. 
Among us people also know it, and different wicked speculators spread 
various rumors. There is nothing true in it. Our editor of Gazeta 
Swia.teczna explains, that there is nothing to be feared from it, because 
the moon moves 50,000 miles from the earth and the one does no harm 
to the other; what damage then can the one bring to the other when 
the comet of Halley moves 3,000,000 miles away from the earth? 
I don't know where it is now; in March after sunset we saw it above 
the western sky, but now we don't see it any more. Perhaps you see 
it in America? .... Now what you wrote about the sun, if we 
live next year I will do so here at the appointed time, and so we shall 
learn who of us is nearer the equator. You had a very good idea, 
but now it cannot be done, for during this tune the sun has turned 
much off from the earth, or rather the earth from the sun, and a second 
trial ought to be made. 1 

Now as to the machines which you bought and which are so 
expensive don't they know scythes and sickles there ? With these 
tools you can do much during the summer. But you ought not to 
lose hope, even if one year disappoints you; perhaps the next year 
will be better. One always works more willingly upon his own [land] 
and has more pleasure in everything and particularly it makes a 
difference hi old age; you can live more easily to the end on your own 


[Letter of June 19, entirely filled with questions of agriculture at home 
and in America; one of August 5, with news of the visit of bishop, con- 
firmation of Edward and J6zefa, arrest and imprisonment of brother Jozef, 
by mistake; one of December i, filled again with news and advice about 
farming and gardening.] 

46 January 8, 1911 

DEAR BROTHERS: [Usual beginning.] The holidays passed, we 
decorated the [Christmas] pine-tree and the children had great joy. 
[Difficult to bring in the hay.] Now I answer your questions. The 

1 Their idea is probably to measure the length of a shadow. It does not occur 
to them to consult a map, because of the total lack of any tradition about the use 
of books of reference. When information was needed it was always sought either 
by asking someone or, whenever possible, by observation and experiment. 


village-elder is Kazimierz Plaksa; he is ending his third year. The 
shop in Lapy under the name ''Consumers Association in Lapy" 
exists, but the income scarcely covers the expenses. It would prosper 
pretty well, if it were not for our darkness [lack of instruction]. 
What can be done, if people prefer to go to the Jews? They are 
afraid of making the Jews angry. Perkowski Roman opened a shop 
in his house also .... and it is not going badly. In the autumn 
I gave him a pumpkin for his shop which weighed more than 2 poods, 
and upon which was written: "Village-gardener W. W. " 

Now as to the autonomy of the Kingdom of Poland, it will 
probably be no sooner than pears grow upon a willow [Proverb]. 
[News about farm-work, crops, prices.] If it were always so [as this 
year], it would be only half a misery, but I don't know how it will be 
in the future with this farm. Perhaps it will soon fall into pieces, 
and then neither here nor elsewhere. I like to work, but only if there 
is something to work upon. I think that for you it is also agreeable 
to work upon a farm, and the more so upon such a farm. If our Lord 
God helps you to pay [the mortgage], it is the most sure piece of bread. 
.... If I had so much of my own land I believe that I should feel 

fine, but I commend myself to the will of God I am in a bad 

situation. Even if it came to paying [the stepdaughter's part of 
inheritance hi cash, instead of giving her land, in the case of her 
marriage], it would be difficult to find a loan, because I don't know 
myself what and upon what I am [what is my position, as the father 
of the heirs]. The worst is that my hands are tied, so that I cannot 
manage the affairs freely. Even now I do much, for I don't know 
what another man would do in my situation [probably less]. Now I 
think it a pity that I did not go earlier to America; at present it is too 


The stork's nest fell down last summer; it was rotten with rains. 
Now there is none. 

47 March 15, 

DEAR BROTHERS: [More than half the letter filled with farm and 
weather news.] Now as to the fast in our country, the Holy Father, 
or the Pope, gave an exemption for 7 years. On all the days of the 
whole year except the eve of the day of God's Mother, December 8, 
and Good Friday, we can eat milk. On all Saturdays of the year, if it 


does not happen to be the eve of some holiday or quarterly fast-day, 
we can eat meat. On all the Sundays during Lent, we can eat meat, 
even more than once. On all the Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays in 
Lent, except Good Thursdays, we can eat meat once a day. The 
Holy Father gave an exemption for the Kingdom of Poland for 7 
years, commuting the fast for other good deeds. He did it last year, 
in April. The papers published it at once. The priests did not 
publish it; only when the whole people learned it and it was impossible 
to keep it secret they proclaimed it. Nevertheless we keep the old 
habit about meat, only in Lent we eat milk on Sundays, Mondays, 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on the other days we fast x 


48 March 16, 1912 

"Praised be Jesus Christus!" 

DEAR BROTHERS: I announce to you today sad and painful 
news. Today, March 16, at 4 o'clock hi the morning, our Olcia ended 
her temporal life, and moved to eternity, toward which we also are 
going. It is sad and sorrowful news. For the second time I bear 
such a painful blow. What is left to me ? Even this one who has 
been instead of a mother to these younger ones bade us farewell, not 
for a day, not for a week, but for eternity. She went often to church, 
but she came back, and now she will never come back. Oh, how sad 
it is to think of it! And the house is empty without her. 

The spring comes, and there will be much work. Who will do 
this ? Now I can do almost nothing at home, I must do my work, 
because, thanks to it, we can more easily drive poverty away, the 

more so as this funeral will cost more than 60 roubles And 

moreover, there are rumors that the Stalugis from Barwiki and Feliks 
.... Laba intend to claim the inheritance after her, but I believe 
that they will receive from us as much as the Stalugis formerly received 

from my late wife [nothing] Olcia wanted to bequeath it to 

me, but it was not possible, because she was not full 21 years old. 

'The persistence of old customs among peasants is very well shown in the 
matter of fasting. The example of Wr6blewski, who fasts in spite of the exemp- 
tion, is typical. The whole modern evolution in the church's attitude toward 
fasting remained without any influence upon the isolated peasant communities. 
This shows also the relative independence of religion as custom from the sanction 
of the church. 


But as far as I have asked, her part belongs by the right of inheritance 

to the younger half-brothers and half-sisters 

W. W. 

49 May 14, 1912 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... Now I inform you that I have already 
a new housewife at home. I took her from Plonka. She is Miss 
Anna Perkowska, from the house where Horko formerly lived. She 
is the daughter of Horko's son-in-law, and 30 years old. Moreover, 
she is a good seamstress, because others learn from her. Although 
she does not look pretty, for me it is more than enough, for I am no 
longer the same as I was long ago. Now I have two sewing-machines; 
one can even be sold. Her stock of clothing is substantial enough 
no need to buy her new dresses soon. And the order at home is 
becoming different, and I am glad of it, because up to the present 
there has been a terrible confusion in the house. Now, if only good 

harmony prevails at home, it will be better, I hope I have 

nothing more of interest to write. I mention only that our marriage 
was performed on May 7, on the eve of St. Stanislaw, and there was 
a good enough, although not a big wedding-feast x 


50 August 2, 1912 

DEAR BROTHERS: [Weather, farm- work, crops.] Now I have 
had no letter from you for a long time. I wrote in May that a change 

had happened with me, that I had taken a new wife Now at 

least the order at home is somewhat better, because up to this time 
it has been very bad; and a little money is more easily found when 
necessary, since I took my position again. Although my occupations 
are more numerous, at least there is some result. Now it will be more 
easily possible to go somewhere and to see something. It would not 
be bad, only Edward is somewhat lazy. Perhaps he will improve 

when he grows up 


1 Less ceremonial and less social importance are always attached to second 
marriages, but the lack of any touch of romance and of any wedding announce- 
ments marks this as an unusually matter-of-fact arrangement. 


51 October 21, 1912 

DEAR BROTHERS: [Weather, crops, prices; news about acquaint- 
ances.] Now in Plonka we have a new church .... it will be 
consecrated next year. Our village gathered 150 roubles for one 
window of the new church; other villages give money also, but we 
have shown ourselves munificent as compared with the others, for 
which we have been praised more than once from the chancel by the 
priest. Now, at home it does not go badly. My present housekeeper, 
or rather wife, keeps good order at home and also with the children; 
they are all cleaner than before, and my Jozia says that she never had 

such a chemise as she has now Well, the service is not bad; 

I get 30 [roubles] every month. She earns for herself by sewing 
.... and I do not have to pay for the weeding, harvesting, digging, 

etc [More farm-news.] 


52 March 7, 1913 

.... DEAR BROTHERS: .... We live still in the old way, but 
perhaps soon there will be something new [war]. Everything here is 
as you wrote. We expected bad times very soon. Now it seems that 
for the present there will be peace, but it seems that, as the papers 
write, this misery is unavoidable sooner or later. Where shall we go 
then? We shall all perish probably hi some awful way, if we live 

long enough to see it come Although even now we don't 

enjoy any delights, then a terrible misery awaits us, and we shall be 
separated from you, not singly, but all together, and we shall give 
no news about ourselves and get none from you 

These 30 roubles which I earn monthly are still not enough for 
such expenses. And as my son is moreover a lazy boy, the farming 
is bad at home. Even now I have been obliged to kill a cow; she 
could neither rise nor calve. Only two are left. And then everybody 
must be clothed and shod, and I must count well hi order to get our 
living. I got entangled in this misery so that there is no way out of it. 
I became the slave of my own family. If I saw that my son would be 
a farmer and that, if God allowed me to live until old age, I could 
spend it with him, then it would be possible to bear it. But I don't 
see it, for he is lazy in every line, careless. Wherever he goes, he 
will have hard times. Now when I am not at home he becomes still 


more idle. I cannot decide about this property, and he will be no 
farmer, as it seems. So if I live so long that I am unable to work 
myself what then? [Weather; Easter- wishes.] 


53 October 10, 1913 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... I am always very interested in how you 
live there in the foreign country. It is a pity that you have worse 
luck this year, but this happens always and everywhere. Do you 
hope at least to keep this farm ? Will there be no failure ? Now I 
inform you that there is a change with me. My chief went away 
and a new one came. I don't know whether it will be possible to 
serve under him; it seems that he will be very particular. I should 
be glad to remain at least for the winter 

Now I inform you that we shall surely have colonies [commassa- 
tion of land], because all the villages of the commune Lapy agree; 
and not a great agreement is needed, because it is enough if more than 

half of the village wants it; then the others must agree 

Everybody will sit upon a single spot, the pasture will be common, 
and the fields and meadows will be measured anew. I am very 
curious what will come of it. 1 

Now, on August 24 was the consecration of the new church in 
Plonka. Now we are already going to the new church. It is a 

pleasure to see, how beautiful it is Michal is now going to 

school, and the youngest boy Waclaw [son of the new wife] is growing 

very well 


54 April 4, 1914 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... Now I remain in the same employ- 
ment. My chief will go away again and a new one will come. It 
is not very good to have to get accustomed to a new one so often. 
There is now work enough for me .... and there is always some- 
thing for the work [some money], but there is one misfortune. My 

1 Under the old system the peasant had his land in small pieces (Wr6blewski, 
as he says, had his seven morgs nine and one-half acres in forty spots), and with 
as many neighbors as he had plots of land the peasant was in constant disputes 
over questions of trespass and the like. The new system has resulted in incom- 
parably fewer quarrels and lawsuits. 


Edward every year sees the stork for the first time standing or lying, 
and I, on the contrary, see him always flying. Yesterday also I saw 
the first stork this year flying; surely he will bring something this 
year. Such is my luck. 1 

My youngest Waclaw is a strong boy and keeps well. Perhaps 
he will have more energy, because these older ones have been bad 
and miserable since childhood, and even now there is little energy in 
them; and there is work enough, if not at home, then elsewhere, if 

one is not a lazy fellow 2 


55 Tuesday, December 10, 1907 

DEAR BROTHER: .... I thank you for your letter, which pleased 
and grieved me at the same time. It pleased me because I learned 
something about you from your own hand, and grieved me because 
you described truly your situation. I knew about it long ago, it is 
true, but up to the last moment I could not believe that the danger 
was so imminent. How can I help you? I may only say that if 
you are unhappy (in this life), think that perhaps there are others, 
a hundred times more unhappy than you; and even those who at 
first sight seem to succeed well enough, if we looked nearer, and if we 
could discover the mysteries of their life, we should know that the 
life of every one of them is one series of sufferings. And if a man 
could see all his sufferings at once, he would certainly try to shorten 
them voluntarily. 

But let us not talk about other people, only about ourselves. Let 
us begin with the oldest. Is Walery happy ? Is everything with him 
going on as he wishes? At first it would seem we could say yes. 
It is but enough to look at the health of his wife and his children, 
particularly hi their first years, in order to have an idea of his success. 

1 We have here an instance of a very general belief that the good or bad omen 
is a real factor causing the foretold phenomenon to appear. This belief is the 
background of the magical hygiene of the peasants. There is a whole code of 
prescriptions as to what and how omens are to be avoided. 

3 The laziness of which he complains is certainly a result of heredity. The 
children have inherited a weak organism from their consumptive mother. But 
this interpretation is never very clearly realized by a peasant. The attitude 
toward hereditary physical weakness is usually one of moral condemnation, unless 
there is a definite defect which puts the given person a priori outside of any social 


Further, was Marysia, in the flower of her age, happy? Certainly 
not. About Feliks I don't know much. But if somebody ordered 
me to be in his skin, a scapegoat, then I should be glad if there were 
ten Americas. You think probably that I make suppositions true 
or not about his wife. Then come you, I and Konstanty. We know 
about you. As to me, we can shrug our shoulders. To live alone 
seemed to me no business. I considered marriage a difficult duty, 
but nobody who has not experienced it can have any idea about it. 
It is not because I have made a bad choice, but because with marriage 
are connected the most painful and irritating questions. I don't 
say that my condition is the worst, but it is far from being good, 
and the skies, instead of brightening, get clouded. Let us mention 
only one, the least important question. Every beast has its lair, 
the dog has his kennel, while we must wander about strange 
corners and depend upon the landlord's caprice, and we cannot 
even dream about our own kennel. And it is useless to speak about 
the rest. There remains Konstanty. I don't know how he succeeds. 
You write that he does very well, but I cannot believe that a man 
condemned to live far away from his native country could feel really 
happy. 1 

I was astonished in reading in your last letter the question, 
whether I had not forgotten you. In my opinion to forget for a 
long time one's brothers and sisters would be equal to forgetting for a 
long time to eat. Particularly now, when our father has disowned us, 
when our own father tries to harm us in every possible way as you 
know probably from our brother's letters we ought to be, all of us, 
near one another, "one for all and all for one." And if we cannot 
unify ourselves materially, then at least let us be united spiritually 
as closely as possible, and then it will be easier to bear the burden of 
life, and our Lord God will help us. 2 


1 The letter is full of meaning as showing the nature of the peasant's pessimism. 
Whenever theoretical reflection takes the place of action the practical optimism of 
the peasant changes into a theoretical pessimism; the less of active energy we 
find in an individual or a group, the more pessimism prevails. (Cf. Osinski series* 
No. 78, note.) But religion, where the practical rather than the theoretical atti- 
tudes are expressed, is optimistic, as far as uninfluenced by the Christian terrors 
of God's wrath. 

* A good expression of the peasant's own conception of familial solidarity. 


56 [No date, probably 1908] 

DEAR BROTHERS: I wrote in my preceding letter that I would 
write another soon, and I am doing it now. It does not cost me much, 
and to you it is probably the same, for if you pay for a box yearly 
a smaller or larger number of letters makes no difference. I promise 
my wife that if I go to America, I shall write her letters regularly 
every week, but I don't know myself whether it will be true, for 
sometimes something may change or some impediment may come. 
Is it not true ? . . . . 

Jan Laba, from our village, is going to America for the second time. 
He says it is the best to go there for winter, because it is not hot and 
is easier to work. Last Wednesday we had the autumnal odpust 
[parish-festival] 1 in Plonka, on St. Michael's day. During the day 
the weather was nice, but in the morning it rained and therefore 
people from farther districts did not come. I, Franciszek and Ignacy 
came together for now we seldom come together and we talked of 
course about "old times." Franciszek related how, about 12 years 
ago, he came back from the same parish-festival when the people 
were driving the cattle into the fields. Evidently, there can be no 
question of that now, for his dear wife would arrange for him upon 
earth, or even simply in their home, a "Dante's hell," and he would 
merit it in fact. 2 And thus having talked and complained about bad 
luck, after the end of the divine service we went back at once, each 
his own way. 

In general now it is sad in Plonka, for nobody comes there from 
Lapy, because they have then* own chapel and soon they will begin 
to build a church. But we shall have time enough to talk about it 
when I come to you. And now I renew my request to Kostus. If 
he can and if both of you believe that it is worth while, let him send 

1 "Odpust" means literally "indulgence," that is, partial or total remission 
of punishment for sins to be suffered on earth or in purgatory. During the parish 
festival full indulgence is granted to those who confess and commune and perform 
certain good deeds. Hence the identification of "indulgence" and "festival." 

3 The peasant conscience excludes conjugal infidelity absolutely. (Cf. the 
last letters of Stasia in the Piotrowski series.) Besides murder and wronging of 
the helpless, it is the only sin which he never excuses. Even in the tales, hi which 
almost all sins occasionally find pardon, there is no remission of infidelity. In this 
respect the conscience of townspeople, particularly of handworkers, is much more 
lax. The relation of the master's wife with the journeyman is not always con- 


me a ship-ticket, for here people say that if one goes without a ship- 
ticket, he must have 200 roubles, for if he does not show 50 roubles 
when leaving the ship he will be sent back. And if it is true, I could 
hardly gather 200 roubles, unless by selling all my household effects 
at auction, and I should not like that at all. And then, I should 
leave a few roubles for my wife and my son. But first I ask you for 
advice, whether it is worth going, for if I don't earn $1$ a day, it 

would not be worth thinking about America It is a pity that 

Kostus is no longer in the mines, for I should like to have piece-work, 

for work is never too hard 


57 December 13, 1909 

DEAR BROTHERS : The man was not stupid who made the proverb : 
"Man shoots and aims, but the Lord God directs the bullets." The 
same proved true with me. At the moment when I had a real inten- 
tion of going to you, and when I received your letter, then a "some- 
thing," as we call it usually, got me, but such a "something" that 
while I could still think of America it was only of the America from 
which nobody ever comes back. I was not actually laid up, but worse 
still, for with a man who is lying in bed things are soon decided in one 
way or another. As to me, I am sick in my lungs, coughing, catarrh, 

sore throat, headache. In a word, like a broken pot Now 

I am better than in the beginning, but far from being fully recovered. 
.... I don't know now myself when I shall be able to visit you, 
and whether I shall be able at all, for to feel something bad about 
one's self and to go beyond the sea in search of bread would be very 

silly To tell the truth, day-work does not attract me much, 

for during 10 years I have become unaccustomed to anybody's 
controlling my work. Even if I worked the best possible, I should 
always have the impression that the boss considered it insufficient. 
Piece-work is quite another matter. I want it still and always. 
Perhaps I could find it. 1 

As to the news, there is a sad piece. Wincenty K. (from whom 
our father bought the mill-wheel), became half-insane because of 
money troubles and a few days ago cut his throat with a razor. He 
walked after this about a verst, and died under a fence near his home. 

1 On piece-work see Introduction: "Economic Attitudes." 



And it is a pity, for he was such an honest man. There is also gay 

news. Stefka G. married a boy from Szolajdy The wedding 

was on the last Sunday before Advent. But God pity us! What 
marriage-festivals there are now! It began at 10 o'clock in the 
morning, and at 10 in the evening there was not a strange soul left, 
except of course the groom, who was not so stupid as to leave his 
beloved. Thus the whole festival did not last even 12 hours. 1 There 
were only 5 bottles of brandy for 60 persons. To tell the truth, it 
would be better in general if there had been none. There was more 
beer, but people got sick, for even without beer it was cold enough. 


1 We find in many letters the statement that the marriage-festivals are becom- 
ing shorter and less ceremonial. It is an immediate sign that marriage is losing 
more and more its social character; mediately it shows the progressive individuali- 
zation of peasant life in general. 


Jan Stelmach, the old man who writes these letters, is a 
perfect type of Galician peasant farmer, with some instruc- 
tion, indeed, but without any climbing tendencies and with 
a definite class-consciousness. Except for the usual troubles 
of country life, he seems to be perfectly satisfied with his 
position. In this respect the Galician peasant differs from 
the peasants in Russian and German Poland. Perhaps 
owing to greater national freedom and because of the 
relatively insignificant industrial progress of Galicia, the 
peasant there developed a particular pride and a strong 
class-feeling. Even when he gets a higher instruction, be- 
comes a priest, a teacher, an official, he is seldom ashamed 
of his origin, remains and wants to remain a peasant. From 
the advice which old Stelmach gives to his son and daughter- 
in-law it is evident that he considers, consciously and after 
reflection, the peasant form of life the most normal and 
sound, physically and morally. 

There is also an interesting variety of the family problem. 
We see that the Stelmach family, except for some slight 
misunderstandings, remains harmonious much more so 
than the Wroblewskis or even the Osinskis. But this does 
not mean that the old solidarity and community are pre- 
served. On the contrary, there is already a far-going 
individualization, as shown, for example, in the question of 
marriage and in economic matters (real division of the 
property; independence of the son in America). But the 
individualization goes on without any struggle. The old 
man, for instance, voluntarily resigns any active control 
of his son, and limits himself to giving advice. He welcomes 
with joy his unknown daughter-in-law, although the way 



in which the marriage was performed was contrary to all 
the traditions. He never asks his son for money, although 
he knows that the latter is well off; he has a sufficient under- 
standing of the desire of the other children to get better 
individual positions hi America, and not only does not 
protest against their plan of emigration, but asks the oldest 
son to help them. In short, hi this matter there seems to be 
also a more rational and self-conscious attitude in the 
Stelmach family than in many others. Instead of a stub- 
born holding to tradition, we find an acknowledgment of the 
inevitable limitation of its power. Perhaps familiarity 
with the phenomena of emigration (of which we find a proof 
in Stelmach 's knowledge of the American conditions) has 
helped to develop this attitude. 


Jan Stelmach, a farmer 

Ewa, his wife 



Michal } his sons* 


Wojtek (Wojciech) 

Kaska 1 , . , , . 
_ . . > his daughters 
Jadwiga J 

Sobek, the husband of Kaska 

Julianna (Julcia, Julka, Ulis), the wife of J6zef 

Julianna's parents 

Makar, Julianna's brother 


/ Julianna's sisters 

Krzysztof Zak, uncle of Ewa Stelmach 

Rozia Stefanska 

Jagusia Sasielska (Wojtkowa) | his daughters 

Zoska (Zosia) 


58 POREBY WOLSKIE, March i, 1909 

Praised be Jesus Christus and the Holiest Virgin Mary, His 

DEAREST CHILDREN: .... I wanted to send wishes for the 
name-day of Julianna, and I saw in the yearly almanac that St. 
Julianna is on March 20, so I intended to send my wishes to you both. 
But I did not succeed, because I ascertained finally that St. Julianna 
is on February 16, and so I have erred through this yearly almanac. 
So now I will send my wishes only to you, dear son. To you, dear 
daughter-in-law, I will send wishes for your name-day next year, if 
I live so long, because now I know already that the day of your 
patron is February 16. 

Well, dear son, a year has passed away, and the day of March 19, 
your name-day, approaches. Your mother and I want to offer you 
various wishes, dear child. We wish you health, happiness, good 
success, an honored name, every good luck, indissoluble love in your 
marriage. May you love each other and never know any sorrow, 
may you never know misery, may you have bread and money enough! 
May our Lord God illuminate you with his mercy, that you may 
always know what to do and what to avoid. May our Lord God send 
you happiness and blessing, that you may have everything, want 
nothing, live happily and praise God. May our Lord God grant 
you every sweet thing! This wish you your father and mother. 
Vivat our son Jozef! May he live a hundred years, may our Lord 
God weave health and happiness, health and fortune into his life!! 1 

Now I describe to you our condition. Your aunt wrote to us 
and sent us a dollar in the letter. We received the letter but the 
dollar was not there, because somebody had stolen it. I wrote to 
the aunt never to send money again in a letter, not even in a registered 
one, because many dollars have already been lost from letters. Poor 
aunt, she has so little herself and she wants to help us! May our 
Lord God give her whatever is the best, because she wants to help us 

as she can, but some wicked man has swallowed $6 already 

And don't you send money in a letter either, because a letter can be 
opened easily. You have only to moisten it with spittle where it is 

1 The whole paragraph (half in verse) is a typical speech, such as would be said 
during a family festival. The function of ceremonial wishes is here made as plain 
as possible. (See Forms and Functions of the Peasant Letter.) 


glued and put it under your arm. When it becomes warm, the glue 
loosens up and it is easy to open it with a needle, to read it, then to 
moisten and to glue it up, adjusting carefully the borders of the seal. 
If it won't hold, you need only rub it with a potato and it will stick up, 

and nobody will know it So don't dare to send it in a letter, 

because it is nowhere difficult to find a thief. 1 

We are all in good health, but our condition is meanwhile a little 
sad because, as you know, when there is one thing another thing is 
lacking. So we lacked milk during the carnival, and our cow was to 
calve at the end of February, and we were watching whether she 
would not calve. On the night of February 26 to 27 I went to the 
stable to see whether the cow was not calving, and I found the cow 

strangled The other young cow had torn herself loose and had 

pushed her with her horns. The cow had pulled the chain, but the 
chain was strong and could not be broken, and the cow was strangled. 
So we had a sorrow in those days, but God gave it, God took it away, 
may He have honor and glory; he afflicted us, but he will also comfort 
us a 

Aunt Walkowa Stelmaszka [wife of the paternal uncle, Walek 
Stelmach] intends to send her daughter Agnieszka to America to 
Borek [probably her brother]. You write that Borek did not answer 
you. It was because many fellow-countrymen tumbled upon him 
there, and he was afraid that you had no work and he thought that 
if you came to him, he would be obliged to support you. 3 But if you 

1 The old man has evidently used this means of opening and reading letters, 
but it must be remembered that there is no strong feeling of privacy about letters 
among peasants. The letter is always at least family-property, and all the members 
of the family have the right to read it independently of the will of the person by 
whom it is written or to whom addressed. To some, often to a very large, extent 
the whole village claims the right to read a private letter, particularly if there are 
greetings for many neighbors, or if the news interests the community. This was 
e.g., the case with letters from Brazil during the craze for emigration to that region. 
The refusal to give a letter to read is considered almost an offense. The more 
isolated the community from the external world, the rarer the news, the less the 
feeling of privacy is developed. 

2 ThP fftnr"l" ' f^prrty th^ar^f aftpr ihp dpatji Q^a_rhilH 

3 According to the principle of solidarity Borek should have received his 
relative. But there are too many claims, and the situation is abnormal. Nor- 
mally the relation of solidarity exists first of all between the individual and the 
group, and only secondarily among individual members of the group. The 
individual has duties toward the group as a whole and the group as a whole has 
duties toward every individual; but an individual has duties toward another 


don't wish to go to a farm you don't need to write to him. We won't 
write you more, only we greet you very warmly. May our Lord God 

make you happy and bless you, our dear children! 

Your parents, 


And we also, your brothers and sisters, greet you, brother and 
sister-in-law, very warmly. 

I, your aunt Wojtkowa [wife of Wojtek] Sasielska, greet you, my 
nephew Jozwa [Joseph] and my niece Julka [Julianna]. As I hap- 
pened to be here when your letter came and as they answer you while 
I am here, so I greet you and wish you health and happiness for your 
new household. 

59 September 27, 1909 

.... DEAR SON: We wrote before to you and to your aunt, and 
now we write again to you and to your aunt. We wrote before to 
your aunt that her sisters are to pay her 50 crowns each, and now I 
have written her that the sisters calculate that either Rozia will give 
them [this money], or it will be lost [to her], because she won't come 
here to our country for these 100 crowns. And I wrote to your aunt 
that if she wants to collect these 100 crowns herself, let her do it, but 
if she were to give [this money] to them, let her not give it to them, but 
let her rather give it to us, i.e., to your mother. If your aunt gives 
it to us, let her send us a power of attorney certified by the consul. 
But the consul won't certify it without money, so we beg you very 
nicely, beg your aunt in our name to do it, and pay whatever it costs. 
If your aunt will collect [this money] for herself, let her collect it, but 
instead of giving it to her sisters and your aunts, let her rather give 
it to us. So when you receive the letter, do your best, because we 

individual only because and as far as both are members of the same group, not 
because they are immediately connected with each other. Therefore, when the 
individuals are isolated from their groups, as happens on emigration, their reciprocal 
duties cease to be real, just in the measure in which they are cut off from the 
common basis. A personal, variable, voluntary, relation takes the place of the 
social norm. Claims on help are, as a matter of fact, much less exacting at home 
than abroad. At home a single individual who needs help finds many who can 
help him, each one a little; abroad a single individual who is able to help has often 
to bear the burden of supporting many who are in a difficult condition. (Cf. 
Raczkowski series, the situation of Adam after his marriage.) 


send a letter to you and another to your aunt. We beg you, do your 
best, that your aunt may give this money to us, and not to Jagusia 

and Zosia x 


60 November 5, 1909 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... We gathered from the field 
what our Lord God gave us. He did not take it away in our village, 
but on other sides of the country hail has beaten [the crops]. Wola 
was left free from [God's] punishment, but we have gathered less than 
last year 2 

We are very glad that you are hi good health and that you speak 
to us. May God make you happy and bless you and save you from 
any evil. Here Urbanowa [wife of Urban] Chudzicka, our relative, is 
dead and Urban married at once in the house of Lukaszek Maruta 
[the daughter of L. M.], that Rozia who worked hi Wola, and now 
he has a young wife. Krzysztof Zak is also dead. Aunt Stefanska 
wrote to us asking who will pay her part of the inheritance [who is the 
main heir, taking the land and paying the other heirs in cash]. But 
I did not answer her directly, because the government ordered this 
money of the heirs to be put in the bank, and I thought that they 
would put it there. But the other aunts won't put it, because your 
grandfather had at first left the field near the forest to Rozia [Stefan- 
ska], but finally he willed it to Jagusia and Zoska [other sisters], and 
they are to pay to Rozia 25 gulden each. They will give together 
50 gulden, i.e., 100 crowns. They would be glad if Stefanska gave 
them these 100 crowns as a gift, and your mother intended also to 
write Rozia asking her to give these 100 crowns to your mother, but 
she did not dare, because Aunt Rozia received too small a part of the 

1 The grandfather evidently thought that Aunt R6zia, being in America, 
needed no money. He wanted, in fact, to relieve the heirs who took the land from 
a heavy payment. A hundred crowns is a trifle hi comparison with the probable 
value of the land, and leaving the sum to her at all was certainly nothing but a 
formality; the grandfather did not wish to omit her completely hi the will, as this 
would mean a disavowal of the daughter. That it was a formality is proved by the 
request of the sisters to give this money to them. And this explains old Stel- 
mach's similar request. He would hardly have asked his sister-in-law to cede her 
rights to his wife if her inheritance were real, e.g., a piece of land. 

2 The aleatory element hi economic life. For the consequences of this element, 
see Introduction: "Economic Life"; "Religious and Magical Attitudes." 


inheritance. 1 You will ask perhaps what she will do, whether she 
will let them [the two other aunts] send her these 100 crowns, or will 
give them to one of them. But they .... [illegible word; perhaps 
"have slandered" or "have wronged"] the aunt, so she ought not give 
this money to them. 

Michal [son] wrote to us that you had answered him. If you 
think it good, you could let him come there, but not until spring. 
.... You say that [workmen] are striking ; well, that is funny ! 
Not long ago they had no work, and now already they don't want to 
work, but require a higher pay! We have now repaired the stable; 
we made two stables, one for the horses, another for the cows. People 
say that in that town where you are there is a big stench, the whole 
town is covered with smoke as with clouds 


[The first paragraph of the following letter is of the ceremonial type 
(similar to the first part of No. 58) and is printed as No. 4 among the speci- 
mens of peasant letters.] 

6 1 January 30, 1910 

.... In the last letter I asked you to advise me whether I should 
send Michal and Wojtek to Prussia or to America. You did not even 
answer me. If you think that it is good there and if you have a little 
money, you may send a ship-ticket at least to one of them, so at least 
one shall go. You never say to them any word of praise, that it is 
well there, so they are afraid to go to America, and here at home you 
know yourself how it has been. They quarrel with each other. 
Sometimes one succeeds in Prussia and sometimes not, and then the 
summer is passed in vain. If he came there to you he could work back 
for the ship-ticket, in the same way as you worked back for the ticket 
which your aunt sent you. It would be well if you sent [tickets] for 

both of them So now you understand it to be better, on that 

side praise it [praise, in writing to them, the course which you consider 
the best], because people think it strange, that you don't take either 

1 The situation has an additional interest from the fact, that Jagusia and 
Zosia are the own sisters of Aunt R6zia, while the writer's wife Ewa is only her 
cousin. The Stelmachs' claim is therefore based not upon family-relationship, but 
upon the nearness of personal relations. 


of them. 1 If you had taken Kaska also, it would have been easier 
for us, and perhaps better for her, because we contracted debts for 
her sake and she does not get on well. The sister and brother of 
Sobek [son-in-law, husband of Kaska] require the debt to be paid, and 
if not, then interest to be paid, and the interest on twelve hundred is 
72 gulden. Think how it is necessary to work in our country hi order 
to live and to put 72 gulden aside. This makes her sad. But you 
never wrote her "Sister, come here, you will earn, and you will get 
on well." But this is past. Now you can only advise your brothers 
so that everything may be well. [Greetings from the whole family.] 


Gud Baj [goodbye; probably imitates the son who adds this in 
his letters]. 

62 November 31, 1910 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... We wrote to you in August but 
you did not answer, and so now we risk writing to you, because we 
think that you have moved somewhere and our letter did not reach 

you Our condition is not pleasant, because winter tumbled 

upon us, snows have been falling since November 22, and it is difficult 
to go out anywhere. The boys did not come from Prussia, they 
wrote that they will come only for Christmas. The cold annoys 
them, because they must rise at dawn to work and labor long in the 
evening. Dear children, we send you consecrated wafers. Although 
there are also wafers [there], yet you are entered in the registers of 
this parish, so we send you them from here, because you are 
Christians. 2 Many people forget there that they are Christians, but 

1 It is explicitly stated here that the sending of ship-tickets to one's relatives is 
not a mere act of kindness, but a familial duty more so than the sending of money 
home, for that question is never raised hi this series. A certain individualization 
of familial relations seems to be manifested by this distinction. Indeed, by sending 
money home the emigrant helps his family immediately as a whole, while by taking 
one family-member to America he evidently helps this member immediately and 
the rest of the family only mediately. 

2 This connection between religious valuation and local patriotism is very 
frequent. Not only the wafer from one's own parish has more value than one from 
anywhere else, but the same is true of any other object of religious or magical 
significance. A particular importance in this respect was attached to earth. It 
was an old custom of emigrants and wanderers to carry a little earth of their 


don't you forget that you are Christians and that you believe in one 
God. As long as you speak to your parents, it is evident that you 
believe in our Lord God, but when you disown your parents, it is 
evident from this that you don't believe in our Lord God. 1 I asked 
you to answer us and to give the address of the Stefanskis .... and 
your mother wanted you absolutely to answer at once and to write 
why you wanted to go to the mines, whether you had no work where 
you are. People say that there in Pittsburgh it would need a dragon 
to hold out. They say that even in fine weather no sun is to be seen. 
.... If it is true, move rather to another city 


63 March 28, 1911 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... When you did not write for so 
long a time we thought different things about you. I asked a peasant 
from Wolka how Wojciech Maksyn was getting on. He said that he 
[Maksyn] was selling his horse and asked me how I knew about him. 
I said that my son married his daughter. And this peasant said, 
"One son-in-law ran away from his daughter." Then I thought that 
you had run away and therefore don't write to us, and I intended to 
write to Maksyn in Wolka [to learn] which of his sons-in-law had run 

ancestors' land with them which played the r61e of a talisman and was to be put 
under their heads in the grave in case they died and were buried far from their 
native village. 

1 The very real psychological unity of the traditional set of attitudes is here 
evidently exaggerated, since various attitudes may be dropped or changed 
separately. But this exaggeration itself is significant, for it must exert a real 
influence upon the evolution of the subject himself and upon the attitude of the 
environment toward him. A man who has dropped one traditional attitude will 
drop the others more easily, because in his own conscious reasoning they seem more 
connected than they are in reality. This will happen particularly if, as is often the 
case, intellectual factors in general tend to influence strongly individual life while 
the level of instruction is rather low. Thus, among the socialists of the lower classes 
many traditions are rejected without any real necessity and against the man's own 
feeling, simply because they are believed connected with others which were logically 
rejected as incompatible with the socialistic ideals. On the other hand, the 
behavior of the social environment toward an individual who has dropped some 
traditions is usually determined by the prepossession that he must have dropped all 
traditional attitudes precisely as Stelmach explicitly states here. Sometimes a 
very trifling change is sufficient to arouse this prepossession, e.g., a change of dress, 
of the old way of farming, the dropping of magical beliefs, etc. 


away and from which of his daughters. But now you have written 
to us and we already know that it is not you who left your wife. We 
pity you very much that you have no health there now, and I wrote 

you already to move away from that Pittsburgh I would 

advise you to move with your wife to Trenton, N.J. There hi 
Trenton are people from our neighborhood, and they are in good health 
and they earn well enough. Kuba Chudzik from Brzyski is now there 
and intends to come home. If he does not leave before this letter 
reaches you, you could write to him; so you might succeed him in 
his work when he comes home. He works in an iron-factory and has 
good wages. [Gives addresses of other people in Trenton.] But you 
must try to get information, so as not to lose the work which you have 

.... before you find anything in Trenton Even if you 

wanted to come back to our country there is no goodness here, because, 
as you know, those who were with you returned to our country and 
then went to America again, because it is strait here. 

And you, Julka, don't grieve, for you are sick from grief; you will 
get a nervous illness, when you are so you are neither healthy nor 
sick, and no doctor can help against a nervous illness. So don't 
worry. Commend yourself to the will of God and work as much as 
you can; then you will have no time to grieve. And don't lace too 
tightly, for there the women lace their corsets so much that they look 
squeezed up like wasps, and when they bind themselves up so tightly, 
the blood is checked and the body is ill. And don't grieve either that 
your little son is dead. The Lord gave, the Lord took away, praised 
be His name 

There in Pittsburgh, people say, the dear sun never shines brightly, 
the air is saturated with stench and gas. The most healthy life is on 
farms, but if you have no intention of going on a farm, then at least 

move where the air is better 


64 [May, 1911] 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: [Thanks for the wishes which were sent 
for his name-day.] We had a little sorrow because hi one week three 

lay sick with measles, Jadwisia, Marcin and Wojtek Wojtek 

was to go to Prussia, but he remained, and therefore he was more sick 
than the smaller ones, and so the summer will pass. But he could 


be useful even at home, because our stable is ruined and it is necessary 

to repair it and to build another for the horse We had another 

sorrow, because a mare of Kaska died. She was worth 100 gulden. 
This has pained us also, because, dear children, if anything pains you, 
it pains us also, because we love you all as ourselves. If you write 
that you are getting on well and your little wife, our daughter-in-law, 
also, then we are glad, even if misery oppresses ourselves, because 
we see that although we have misery, yet at least our children have 
good success. 

This year seems not to be bad here, but from the past one every- 
body is thin, because the winter was big. The cattle are standing at 
home up to the middle of May, and we were obliged to mix the chopped 
straw with flour and potatoes, and now men are lacking food. The 
prices are as high as in America 

You write that you have a small lodging. Have you then nobody 
to live with you and to help you pay the rent ? Julka does not go to 
work now, so if she has no occupation whatever in her hands she is 
tired. If you had people boarding, she would have distraction and 
she would even be more healthy, because when a man works, he is 
healthy, but when he loafs around in vain he gets weaker and weaker. 
It is said that therefore many people have no good health in America. 
As long as a girl goes to work she is healthy, but when she gets married 
she does not go to work and she stretches herself [lies idle] so that 
blood cannot run hi her veins, fresh air does not reach her because 
she sits continually in her lodgings. Even if she goes out into the 
world petticoats drag behind her and air does not reach her [because 
she is too heavily dressed], and she has no health. And she goes to 
her country, and then from her country again to America, and so 
they lose money on ship-tickets. Let them dress as easily as at home. 
Don't sit in vain [idle] don't eat much meat, and thus you will all be 



You write that Michal wrote to you that he wanted to go to 
America, but he is too weak for America. He got thin in serving, 
particularly with Pelka. You were there and you saw how it was. 
Wojtek is younger, but stronger than Michal. Je.drzej would find 
his way in America, but he is afraid of America, he cannot be per- 
suaded. , 


65 February 23, 1913 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... We are very glad that you keep 
so much poultry and a pig; it is as if you had a farm. When you 
learn to keep poultry and pigs, and when your children grow up, then 
you will go to a farm J 

I thought that only in our country people talk about war, but 
I see that even hi America they write about war and insurrection. 
But there they speak about war lightly, and here among us they 
are so afraid of war that they weep. The reservists called in 
autumn have been kept up to the present. In the beginning of 
March there is to be a military call; 206,065 soldiers are to be 
taken to the army. The Sokols are waiting for war even in our 
country, but the people in villages are so afraid that they tremble 
from fear. 2 

From your aunt Stefanska also we received a letter and a photo- 
graph of her two daughters. She wrote that formerly you called 
upon them often but now you do not come to them, and her children 
ask, " When will Jozef come to us ? " She said that she sends her two 
boys to work, and she said that they are getting on well. You write 
that [it would be well] if one [of your brothers] went to America. 
Well, I want absolutely to send one of them, or later even two; then 
you would not be homesick. Here it may be better perhaps only after 
the war. But who knows who will be left after the war ? .... If I 
were stronger and if my leg did not pain me so much I would go to 
Wolka to your brother-in-law, and I would send you as a gift at 
least a few cheeses through him. But who knows whether he will 
go, and I cannot walk far. I asked about Julcia's father. I was 
told that he is getting on pretty well and has one daughter 
[married] rich, and the dowry cost him little. One man told me 
that he farms at home with his son, another said that he farms 

1 The people at home like to have their relatives in America become farmers. 
It is perhaps because of the analogy of interests. And this in spite of the fact that 
an emigrant who becomes a fanner in America will never return. (Cf. in this 
respect Wr6blewski series.) 

3 The fear of war, so general among the peasants, is based upon old, only half- 
reasoned tradition rather than upon experience. Particularly the Galician peasants 
had had no experience of war since 1866, and then not a trying one. War is 
enumerated among the calamities which the peasants pray God every Sunday to 
avert, and there is an undetermined but on that account more awe-inspiring 
tradition of the horrors of war. 



alone, and that he intends to have one daughter come from America, 
but he did not know which one 


[Letter of May 3, 1913, regrets that his sons in America do not make 
greater efforts to meet in America certain relatives and acquaintances from 
Poland. Describes efforts to build new church.] 

66 April i, 1914 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... I received the papers from you 
four copies, I shall have an amusement for the holidays. Piotr and 
Wojtek went to [season-work in] Prussia on March 19; I wrote it to 
you, but I don't know whether you received my letter. I wrote you 
to send a ship- ticket for Piotr, but in leaving he said that he won't go 
from Prussia [to America], but later on from home. His address is: 
.... Write to them, don't begrudge the five cents, and they would 
answer you, and you would speak with one another, like brothers. I 
wrote you to send me "z*mijecznik," a medicine which is called 
"imijecznik," if anybody from Wolka or from Turza comes home 
.... because your mother has no good health, now as before. 1 I 
lave been healthy, but now my leg aches, and people say that it 
won't be healed, and if it is healed, they say that I shall be sick. 

. . 2 [Weather.] 

Dear son, your mother would be glad to see you before she dies, 
but it is difficult, because here in our country it gets worse and worse. 
Tow many people get separated, although they have land. Many 
lusbands leave their wives and go in search of work, some of them go 
to America, others to Prussia. The wife of Wawrzek Sidor fled to 
'russia, and many others did so, because misery creeps into the housesf 
id drives people away into the world. 3 [Complains about cost o 

1 "Zmijecznik" is a magical remedy. 

1 It is a very frequent belief that if some particular disease, painful but not 
dangerous, is healed, the patient will become seriously sick, or will die within a 
ertain tune. The background of this belief is evidently magical. If the "evil 
arinciple" manifests itself through one of those diseases, it means that it has taken 
jssession of the patient and that it cannot be driven out of him. If hindered in 
aing the smaller harm it will express itself in a greater harm. 

3 This is the only case in our materials where we find bad economic conditions 
expressly stated as the cause of a wife's running away from home. Other cases 
v have been recorded by the Emigrants' Protective Association in Warsaw, but it 


living.] Dear children, work and economize as much as you can, that 
you may have some help for the black hour [for any misfortune], 
because man is imperfect in this world and always lacks something. 
If man insisted on always having what he needs to be satisfied he 
would waste millions. It is best to live modestly, in order that it may 
suffice, because even counts have wasted their manors when they 
wanted to satisfy all their wishes. So live as you can. May our 
Lord God grant you health and happiness, the best possible 


6 7 

[Beginning lacking.] You ask whether J^drzej married in the 
house of that Ludwik who had the [son] Kuba who called upon Dawik 
[visited the Dawik girls]. Yes, he married in the house of that Lud- 
wik, but both the Ludwiks died, and Kuba married that Jadwiga 
who is the ablest among all the girls of Dawik. The others are like 
grandmothers. That Zoska who was in America got married to 
[a man from] Korowiska, and she is always sick. She has two children, 
but she did nothing more than bear them; she does not nurse them, 
only she had to buy a kind of a bottle and milks a cow and with this 
she feeds her children. The man who married her got little comfort 
from her. Dawik gave her only the money which she earned in 
America, and keeps until his death the field which she had after her 
mother ; only when he dies, Zoska will have the field. 

When Jfdrzej got married, we had to make a will. We had to 
make a will because I am so as if I were ill, and your mother has also 
weak health. So your mother willed him that field near Pelka's 
[farm], and this one where we sit, and two morgs in Zra.bki, and these 
small buildings [contemptuously], and he is to keep us to the end and 
pay 1,000 crowns to you, 1,000 crowns to Piotr and 1,000 crowns to 
MichaL To Jadwiga we willed the field behind Urban's [farm], to 
Wojtek 3 morgs in Zra.bki. If we are not well [do not get along well] 
remaining with Jdrzej, then we have the right to harvest f of the 
field and to have a place in the buildings. There are still 600 crowns 
of debt, so we are to work together and to pay this debt. Perhaps you 

always proved that the husband was a drunkard or a good-for-nothing. If external 
conditions are the cause of hard times husbands and wives may separate provision- 
ally but in good understanding. 


think, the sum which is to be paid to you is too small; but he [J?drzej] 
even complained that he won't be able to pay so much. So, dear son, 
don't be angry with us, because what can we do, when it is difficult to 
throw the misery away; very seldom food is on hand, always we must 

buy more The prices are as high here as in America, or 

perhaps even worse, because meat is brought from South America to 
our country, i.e., from Argentine. You write that you have killed the 
pig for yourself, and we did not kill, but we buy bacon for seasoning 
food. 1 [Enumerates prices.] So, dear children, work and economize 
as much as you can for your old age, because old people suffer misery. 
May our Lord God make you happy and bless you with your children; 
and don't forget us, but speak to us as long as we are alive. 2 Even so 
Walek Maryla and his wife envy us, because they have two sons in 
America, and they don't know whether they are even alive ; they never 

write to them I won't write you more until the next time, 

because here nothing is changed, nobody among the family died, 
everybody is alive but got older [Greetings from the whole 



1 This complaint of high prices from a relatively rich peasant, the fact of 
buying food and the division of land, are signs of the growing difficulty of con- 
tinuing the old forms of economic life, particularly in Galicia. Until industrial 
development restores the equilibrium emigration seems a necessity. 

1 This phrase and the whole form of the letter disclose the profound importance 
which giving up the farm to the children has for the old peasants. The phrase 
could be used by one entering a cloister; it expresses a feeling of having broken 
all the real connections with other people, so that nothing but a sentimental 
connection remains. The old man ceases to be an active member of the real 
family-group, and becomes an individual whose only relations with the family are 
sentimental and blood relations. The obligations toward him, as well as his obliga- 
tions toward the rest of the family, cease to be social, and become only moral. 


In the present series we find a very full and typical image 
of the life of an average modern peasant family one 
neither above nor below the normal level, and whose sphere 
of interests contains nothing particular. The life of the 
peasant woman is particularly well represented because 
most of the letters are written or dictated by women. The 
letters of the men are not without interest, but less complete. 

Of course this is not a primitive peasant family, and we 
should not expect to find the old forms of familial and com- 
munal life untouched by modern life. The family lives 
near the German frontier, some thirty or forty miles from 
Thorn, in a locality in which season-emigration to Germany 
and emigration to America have existed for many years, 
and, naturally the disintegrating and modifying influence 
of this is strongly felt. But this is precisely the normal 
situation. Communities, families, and individuals pre- 
serving perfectly the old forms of life today are exceptions. 
Where emigration has not reached, the influence of Polish 
industrial and cultural centers is manifest, and, taking 
everything into account, this influence is incomparably more 
powerful and profound than that of emigration. 

The most important personality is the mother Wiktorya 
Osinska. The first forty letters are dictated by her, in her 
own and her husband's name. She is the real proprietor 
of the farm, which was probably left to her by her parents, 
who died when she was four years old. But, of course, 
under the system of familial community, this question is 
never raised; probably her present husband brought also 
some land or money, but in any case the property is now 
simply common. Wiktorya married first Baranowski and, 



after his death, her present husband, Osiriski. She is 
a woman of the old type, very laborious, very religious, with 
a strong affection for her children stronger probably than 
for her husband. Her son from the first marriage seems 
to be the one preferred, though this preference does not 
hinder her from occupying the standpoint of general familial 
solidarity and from agreeing with her husband hi economic 
matters. She mediates between her sons, her daughter, 
her husband, trying to avoid any quarrels and to keep 
harmony within the family (see particularly No. 103). 
She has not been taught how to write, but she is interested 
in intellectual matters and appreciates instruction highly. 

Her husband Antoni seems to be just an average peasant, 
with a strong familial, rather patriarchal, attitude; with a 
tendency to despotism but without sufficient power of will 
to be really despotic; much less egotistic than his sons or 
than some other fathers (cf. for example, Markiewicz 

His two sons show egotism in a very high degree. Per- 
haps it is a result of the partial dissolution of the traditional 
solidarity. Michal is really interested in nothing except 
his personal life; he is an egotist in a passive way; he does 
not claim much (cf . Wiktorya's letter, No. 103) but neither 
does he give much; he barely writes home. He has real 
friendship for Jan, but no familial feelings. He has departed 
further from the traditional peasant attitudes than anyone 
else in the family probably under the influence of his early 
life as groom in a manor house, and his early emigration. 
Aleksander has preserved much more of the old attitudes 
love for land and farming, attachment to his country, 
traditional conception of marriage, interest in the family. 
But the real feeling of solidarity and community of familial 
life is weakened, and all these traditional attitudes take a 
new form, are directed in practice toward egotistic ends. 


This is a very frequent type of partial disintegration of 
solidarity; the individual is still attached to the group and 
wants to live within it, but he develops purely personal 
tendencies and refuses to make any sacrifice for the group. 

Jan Baranowski seems to be a rather unequilibrated man. 
He certainly gives proofs of true generosity, not only with 
regard to his own family his mother praises his good heart 
but also toward the family of his wife. (He married the 
daughter of Franciszka Kozlowska. See that series.) It 
seems that his friends have even exploited his generosity 
(cf. No. 72). On the other hand, he shows occasionally a 
lack of consideration, as, for instance, in his attitude toward 
Frania's marriage, and some avarice, as in his haste to get 
his part of the inheritance, his dissatisfaction with his share, 
and his effort to get as much money as possible from us for 
his letters. Although this avarice in matters of inheritance 
has nothing very prejudicial from the individualistic 
point of view, it is contrary to the familial spirit. His 
attitude toward Frania, on the other hand, is to be under- 
stood only from the familial standpoint. It seems in 
general that in Jan contradictory elements coexist a broad 
basis of familial attitudes, and some individualistic tend- 
encies, acquired during his solitary struggle for existence, 
but not interacting with the first; at different moments 
different sets of attitudes prevail in his behavior. This is, of 
course, one of the typical forms which a partial disintegration 
of the old psychology assumes. 

Frania, the daughter, is, on the contrary, a rather 
harmonious character. Her psychology is determined in 
its main outlines by her familial functions, first as daughter, 
then as wife. But the (still rather low) degree of instruction 
which she received, and the individualistic tendencies which 
influenced her, as well as every other member of the com- 
munity, make her perform her functions more consciously, 


without the passivity which a peasant girl would have 
shown fifty years ago and sometimes still shows in more 
isolated groups. She is in particularly good relations with 
her mother, whose situation and feelings she understands 
better than anyone else. If she sides with her parents 
against her brothers in all the misunderstandings between 
them, it is not because of a mere subjection to authority, but 
out of real familial feelings. Even in writing letters under 
her mother's dictation she shows an effort to express exactly 
what her mother wants her to express, contrasting with the 
negligence of Aleksander. For the sake of economic and 
familial considerations she has to make a sacrifice and 
makes it, even postponing her marriage for three years. 
She finally marries from real love the man who waited for 
her, refusing another brilliant match. Later she is a loving 
wife and mother while keeping always the same attitude 
toward her parents. 

We know little about the other members of the family. 
Adam, Frania's husband, is evidently a nice and relatively 
cultivated peasant, as is shown by his attitude toward 
Frania and by the fact that he has been elected to a post 
of confidence in a peasant association. The wives of Jan 
and Aleksander seem to be rather insignificant; there is not 
a trace of their influence upon the family life. The other 
branch of the family, the Smentkowskis, is also very little 
characterized. Their situation is more or less the same as 
that of the Osinskis. 

Now, the Osinski situation is very typical for the present 
moment. The 'whole of the old organization of life is 
proving unadapted to the solution of new problems, and 
the result is a tragedy for the individuals who are unable to 
change their attitudes. Thirty or forty years ago the 
course of life of the family would have been very different. 
Each son would have lived at home until his call to military 


service; he would have helped the parents, perhaps worked 
in addition as a hired laborer in the neighborhood. Having 
served his term, he would have returned and married, in 
the same village or in the neighborhood; he would have 
received money or land from his parents, taken some dowry 
with his wife, and settled upon a farm. One of them would 
have taken the parents' farm, as Aleksander did, others 
would have bought land. Of course, in spite of the dowries, 
each of them would have been poorer than the parents were, 
and only perhaps after many years, much work, and great 
parsimony would have attained almost the same level. But 
this problem was not particularly important as long as the 
fundamental economic idea was that of living, not of 
advance. If only each member of the family had enough 
to live on his own farm, the situation was all right. 

But now comes the new tendency that of advance. It 
is evident that the old organization gave no opportunity to 
advance. At best the next generation could attain the 
level of the preceding generation, and even this was more 
and more difficult. And it is also evident that a new 
organization is required to meet the new problem based no 
longer upon mere familial arrangements but upon the idea 
of improvement of personal economic aptitudes. Actually, 
a spirit of enterprise and a higher technical instruction in 
various lines should be developed hi the young genera- 
tion, enabling each member to rise independently, without 
further help from the group. But instead of this we find 
only partial and insufficient changes brought into the old 
organization. Jan, having spent his time'iinproductively 
until his twenty-sixth year, first at home, then in the army, 
has to increase his fortune instead of marrying and settling, 
according to the tradition. But no way other than emigra- 
tion is left to him. Michal is sent to serve, in order to 
spare the cost of his living; in the manor he develops a 


different psychology, but acquires no useful technical 
knowledge, and so his only recourse is also America. But 
he calculates rationally that since he is to emigrate he may 
as well do it before his military service and not waste 
his time unproductively. Later, the Russo-Japanese war 
breaks out, and after this neither he nor Jan, classed as 
deserters, can return. When they finally get their shares 
of the familial property these shares are certainly of very 
little productive utility to them in America. On the other 
hand, Frania gets a little technical instruction, but not 
enough to be of any real use, and she must be provided for 
in the old way, by a dowry. Thus the result of these 
inconsistent and partial changes of the old organization is 
that the family, whose task is really to provide for its 
members and which it would do more or less for all the 
members under the old system, is able to provide for only 
two Frania and Aleksander. The two others get no 
serious help from the group, or get it too late. They 
become and have to remain isolated from the group and 
from their country. The parents are separated once and 
forever from two of their children; even if they went to 
America to live, against all their habits and traditions, the 
situation would not be better. In this way, through mis- 
adaptation the family loses all its real functions, and until 
a new and more perfect adaptation is elaborated its dis- 
integration is a social necessity. 


Antoni Osinski, a farmer 

Wiktorya Osinska (by first marriage Baranowska) his wife 

Jan (Janek) Baranowski, Wiktorya's son by her first husband 

Michal (Michalek)] , . , . , liri , 

i / . i x ? s ns Of Antoni and Wiktorya 
Aleksander (Alos) J 

Frania (Franciszka), daughter of Antoni and Wiktorya 
Adam (Adas) B., Frania's husband 
. Marysia Kozlowska, Jan's wife 


Julka (Julcia), Aleksander's wife 

Uncle and Aunt Smentkowski, probably cousins of Antoni or 

Antoni, their son 

Anneczka (Anna, Anusia)] ., . , , . 

' \ their daughters 
Frama J 

[68-138. Nos. 68-69 are to the authors from Jan Baranowski, in 
America, to whom most of the letters of the series are addressed. Nos- 
70-106 are from Wiktorya Osinska in Poland to her sons in America. They 
are dictated to her daughter Frania, except as indicated in the notes. The 
name of the husband is associated with the mother's in signing, and he 
occasionally dictated a passage. Nos. 107-24 are from Frania. Their 
brevity and informality are due to her youth and to the fact that until her 
marriage she inclosed them with the letters dictated to her by her mother. 
Nos. 125-28 are from Michal; Nos. 129-38 from Aleksander.] 

68 November 23, 1914 

RESPECTED SIR: I, signed below, found in the Dziennik Zwiqz- 
kowy your advertisement that whoever has letters from the old 
country should send them to your address to demonstrate the nature 
of the Polish people. I have more than 100 letters from my parents 
and my wife's parents and from my dear brother who has perhaps 
already given his spirit to God or lies wounded in some hospital or is 
a prisoner. But I ask you whether it is true that, as your advertise- 
ment says, I shall receive 10 to 20 cents for each letter and that these 
letters will be returned. For they have a value for myself to keep, 
because when this unhappy war is over, I have money to get or this 

farm to take So I beg you for a written answer and for better 

information: (i) Shall I receive the reward as advertised and ho 
much ? (2) Shall I get the letters back ? I beg you to send me a 
guaranty, for should I lose these letters, I should prefer not to have 

this reward at 20 cents each 


69 December 7, 1914 

RESPECTED SIR: I received your letter, .... and after res 

it I commit myself to your generosity I send you the lett 

which I have These letters from my parents are very good 

and detailed with regard to your demand. Most of them are from 
the time of the Japanese war and during the bloody troubles until t\ 


years before the actual bloody tragedy which no pen can describe and 
no reason embrace. What my dear fatherland, and my parents and 
sister and brother are suffering! My brother is perhaps already 
murdered, and even perhaps my dear parents who longed so much for 
me and wanted to see me once more. When I prepared these letters 
to be sent to you, I read a few of them and I wept bitter tears and 
thought thus: "Perhaps they are the last." So I beg you very much 
to send them back to me in totality, for I want to keep them in 
remembrance. And also, as I wrote you in my preceding letter, I 
have an inheritance [in cash] or a farm to get, if this accursed war is 

calmed * 


70 September 9, 1901 

"Praised be Jesus Christus." 

DEAR SON: I received your letter .... and I am glad that you 
are healthy and that you got happily through. As to Antoni, we 
learned two weeks ago that he was stopped in Otloczyn [as having 
trachoma]. First his mother learned it and came to me crying and 
said that they would surely spoil his eyes [in trying to cure them] or he 
would die. 2 But I persuaded her that there are surely more [patients], 
and their eyes don't get spoiled, so his won't be either. 

Now I inform you, dear son, about our health. Your father was 
ill, he had some pains inside, and I had to manage the harvesting 
alone. I hired 3 men to reap and 4 women to rake, and 3 more men 
to build. As to the building, dear son, it was so: When you left, the 

1 The letters are to be used as evidence of his claims. The connection of 
sentiment and business is not felt to be improper and does not hinder the reality 
of the sentiment. In the same way, death of a member of the family hardly inter- 
rupts the usual home occupations of the other members. The material side of life 
has originally nothing of the "low" character which it acquires later by antithesis 
to the higher moral, religious, intellectual, aesthetic, interests. For the peasant 
it is a part of the essential human task to support life and to fight against death. 
The most trifling practical affairs may assume in this light a character of solemnity, 
almost sanctity. Cf. Introduction: "Religious and Magical Attitudes." 

2 The peasant occupies the habitudinal standpoint, and everything seems 
possible to him outside of his normal conditions and known environment. The 
lack of continuity and proportion between cause and effect in general does not 
permit the prevision and limitation of the effects of a given cause. This attitude 
is particularly strong with regard to the government. Cf. Introduction: "Social 
Environment"; "Religious and Magical Attitudes." 


building stopped for 2 weeks. I could not sit in this [new] house at 
all from sorrow, 1 as if half of the people in the village were dead and 
you were dead also. In the 3d week the carpenter worked alone with 

your father for 2 days And in the fourth week the carpenter 

worked 3 days with Adam. And in the fifth and sixth weeks the 
carpenter, the mason and 4 men worked. Your father's work was 
such [of as little worth] as when you were here. I finished the work 
with these men on the last day of August. This whole work, harvest 
and building, cost us 25 roubles, besides the carpenters and yourself, 

dear son And all this building, as we calculated, will cost us 

about 700, and still it won't be finished before next year, for we don't 
wish to make big debts. We sold the horse for 34 roubles, and father 
sold the pigs for 50 roubles and now we must also sell the cow and the 
calf. 2 Now, dear son, I don't know what to do with your clothes, 
whether I shall keep them or give them to your father to wear. 3 You 
wrote me, dear son, to hire somebody to dig the potatoes, and you 
would pay for it. May God reward you for your promise! I can- 
not thank you [reward you] in any other way, except by these 
words. Michalek gave me also a rouble for my dress. May our Lord 
Jesus grant you health and pay you with Heaven for your good 


71 November 12, 1901 

.... DEAR SON: .... The carpenter finished his work on the 
day before St. Michael, and your father drove him to the town and 
we moved into the house with our beds and our cooking. The 

remaining furniture is still left in the bam All is now finished 

except the white- washing and the stairs It cost us 1,000 

roubles in all. [Weather; acquaintances.] 

1 Because the son had worked at the building of the house. 

1 It would seem quite simple to give a mortgage and in this way cover the cost 
of the house. But for the peasant this is logically impossible. The house belongs 
to the class of movable property, like the horse, the pig, or the cow, as against 
land property. It is an inferior kind of property. And mortgage would destroy 
the social value of land, the highest class of property. To give a mortgage in order 
to build a house would be, in the peasant's eyes, an action like that of selling a 
valuable horse or cow in order to have good time on the money. 

3 Clothes do not constitute property in the proper sense, but, like food, belong 
to the objects of consumption owned primarily by the family, only secondarily by 
the individual. Cf. Introduction: "Economic Attitudes." ' 


Now I thank you heartily for the shoes which you bought me 
[before going away]. They are so comfortable that I can walk as far 
as I need without feeling that I have anything on my feet. Whenever 

I put them on I always remember you with tears r I am very 

glad that everybody acknowledges that you are very good. May 
our Lord God grant you not to be spoiled in America! May you 
always be good, first toward God and toward God's Mother, then 
toward us, your parents, and toward all men, as you have been up to 
the present. Amen. 2 


72 December 22, 1901 

.... DEAR, BELOVED SON: .... We were glad on receiving 
your letter, but we were not glad that, although you know how to 
write, you describe very little of your condition. You did not even 
write why you could not come back to our country if you married 
her. But probably they considered you a good man [appreciated you] 
only as long as they did not profit from your work. 3 So I thought 
myself, and when Michal came and read this letter, he said the same, 
that you would have a good Christmas-gift [in the woman] ! We said 
to each other, I and Michal, that you were in the army and you did 
not write us the truth even then [how ill he felt], but although you 
did not write us the truth, still we guessed it. Certainly now you don't 
write us the truth either. It would be much better if you earned a 
little money, came back to our country and got married here. We 
[Michal and I] spoke so before parting. And moreover, we advise 
you, we your parents, if you have any money earned, send it to us, for 
here it won't be lost; we will put it in the savings-bank. But it you 

1 She is probably not accustomed to wearing shoes regularly. The habit of 
going barefoot is very persistent, mainly for economy. Shoes are in many localities 
worn only on Sunday. And often when going to church or to a fair the peasants 
(particularly women) carry their shoes and put them on only when approaching 
the church or town. 

3 The original obligatory familial and communal solidarity is here already 
treated as moral goodness and put into relation with the religious idea. This is 
the state of things which we have studied in the Introduction: "Religious and 
Magical Attitudes." 

3 The girl's parents probably first agreed to give her to him unconditionally 
because they wanted to borrow money from him. When they got it, they made 
the condition that he should not take her from America. Wiktorya supposes that 
in general they have changed their behavior toward him after having got money. 


keep it with you you will always find friends who will want to borrow 
it from you and will want to get you married. Moreover, they could 
steal it from you, as [was done] in the army. [Greetings and New-Year 


73 January 3, 1902 

DEAR SON: .... We thank you nicely for the 10 roubles. You 
wrote us, dear son, that we might make [from this money] a better 
Christmas tree [instead of the word "tree" a tree is roughly drawn by 
the sister who writes this letter] and make ourselves merry during 

the holidays. I should be much merrier if you came here 

This money has been of use to us, for we were owing 8 roubles to the 
carpenter, so your father gave them back at once. He brought 2 
roubles home. Of these two we gave 8 zloty [i rouble, 20 copecks] 
for a holy mass, and the rest we took for our Christmas festival. 
Father says so [to you]: "Economize as much as you can so that no 
one [of your creditors] may drum at your windows when you come 
back." If our Lord Jesus allows us to get rid of our debts, we shall 
remember you, for our debts amount to 70 roubles. If God grants 
us health in this New Year we hope to pay them back, for last year 
there were only expenses, and no income at all. 

Now inform us whether you are near a church, and whether you 
have already been in it a few times, and how is the divine service 
celebrated, whether there are sermons and teachings like those in our 
country. And inform me how do you like America, whether you like 
it as much as our country. Describe everything, for it is difficult for 
me [to write you long letters],. since I cannot write myself to you. 
[Wishes for the New Year.] Now I admonish you, dear son, live in 
this New Year honestly and religiously, for I pray our Lord Jesus 
for you every day, when going to bed and rising * 


The candle burned down, the ink is out, the pen broke, the letter 
is ended. [Pleasantry by Frania.] 

1 The mother's prayers are a reason for the son's living honestly and religiously, 
because by those prayers she helps him to become a member of the divine commu- 
nity and he ought not to break the harmony which she has established between him 
and God. Cf. Introduction: "Religious and Magical Attitudes." 


74 March 18, 1902 

DEAR SON: .... Your last letter grieved us very much, when 
we learned that you were sick. Particularly I, as your mother, wept, 
thinking who cared for you in this illness, you orphan! When we are 
ill, we nurse one another, while you are always alone in the wide world. 
But I remembered and I sighed at once [in prayer], that you had still 
a Father in Heaven and a Mother who guards orphans. 

Now I inform you, dear son, that I was also sick with colic for two 
weeks. For the first week I could do nothing, so that your father had 
the organist come and he applied 12 cupping-glasses. Then I felt 
somewhat better, but still for a week I could not work. And during 
my sickness Legoski came for money, for he was going to America. 
.... But not only we had no money, there was not even anyone 
to prepare a good dinner for him, a suitable one. We had 10 roubles, 
for we got 30 for the cow and we paid Radomski 20 back. So we gave 
him these 10 roubles. Your father would have gone and borrowed 
more, but he did not wish it .... and he said that perhaps you 
would send some for Easter, then your father would give it back to 

his wife Then we sold the calf and got 12^ which we paid to 

your aunt Smentkowska. Then we sold the pig and gave Skunieczny 
10 and Szymanska 5. We left 5 for the tax and for Easter. We are 
still owing 12 to your uncle, 6 to Pazik, 6 to Mr. Krajewski; these are 
the debts which we still have. And then we lack many things for 
the house, which we reckon as about 30 roubles. And you know, dear 
son, that this year is bad, you have seen yourself that the crops were 
not abundant, so we can sell no grain. 

Here your father speaks to you: "If our Lord God grants you 
health, economize as much as you can and send [your debt] back, that 
they [your creditors] may not come to us so often. Were it not for 
the building and for our own debts we should have paid this debt 
for you." 

You asked who died In Trombin the organist's wife [or 

widow?] whom you knew, is dead There are 8 children left 

and the ninth [girl] is in America. When these orphans began to 
weep at the churchyard during the funeral, all the people began to 
weep and even the priest wept and could not make the speech. 
[Information about marriages, weather.] 

You ask about MichaL He has a strong wish to go to America, 
but father won't let him go before the military service, for he has 


only 2 years to wait and he will be called during the third [and if he 
does not go when called, he will never be able to return to his 


And now I beg you, dear son, if you intend to enter into such a 
state as Antoni did [get married], don't look at her dresses, but esteem 
only whether she loves our Lord Jesus. Then she will respect you 

also I On the same day when I received this letter from you 

the parents of Antoni's girl came to his parents .... and there was 
joy such as if all of you came back from America. But they visited 
us also and are very agreeable people, particularly her mother. They 
invited his parents and they invited us for the holidays, so on Sunday 
after Easter they [the uncle and aunt, Antoni's parents] will go, and 
your father is to go with them, but I probably shan't go, for there is 
nobody to take my place at home in my household 2 


75 May 25, 1902 

DEAR SON: .... You asked me to send you one gomdlka [small 
home-made cheese]. When they read it to me, I laughed. It is true 
that I had none when she left [a cousin going to America], but if she 
would have taken it, I would have found one. So instead of cheese 
I send you a godly image you will have a token and from every 
member of the family I send you a small medal. When you receive 
this image, kiss it, that it may bless you hi your work and your 

health and guard you against a mortal sin 3 Michal sends you 

a package of tobacco and Aleksander a package of cigarettes. . 

You wrote to your father asking, what he would send you. Well, 
he sends you these words: "Remember always the presence of God, 

1 The expression of the norm of respect instead of love as fundamental ii 
marriage-relations, and at the same time the connection between religious life ; 
family life. 

2 The invitation for the holidays is a proof that the relation between the writ 
and her husband on one side, the parents of their nephew's wife on the other, is 
familial relation, although it is a mixed blood- and law-relation of the fourth and 
fifth degree. 

3 Both the image and the medals are consecreted; if therefore the first has a 
particular magical value, while the medals are treated merely as family-tokens, it 
is evidently because of the particular intention and desire of the mother to let the 
image have a magical influence. Cf. Introduction: "Religious and Magical 


and when we shall stand before the last judgment you will calmly wait 
for the holiest sentence." Now I send you other words: "Work and 
economize as much as you can; I won't take [the fortune] into the 
grave with me. When you are not able to work longer [in America], 
then I will divide [the fortune] among you. And God guard us 
against a sudden death. Amen." 1 

I can send you nothing more, dear son except my heart. If I 
could take it away from my breast and divide it into four parts, as 
you are four whom our Lord Jesus keeps for me still [besides those who 

are dead], I would give a part to every one, from love [Wishes 

and greetings.] 


76 July 29, 1902 

DEAR SON: .... I inform you now that on July i, there was a 
terrible storm. The lightning struck in 3 places in our village, but, 
thanks to God, without damage, for only in trees and in the stream. 
But do you know Betlejeski in Lasoty ? Well, lightning struck him 
dead and burned his house, and beyond Rypin a man was killed. 
This storm lasted for 3 hours; it lightened continually. 

The crops are good this year, but it is difficult to harvest them, for 

it rains often We ask you now, dear son, to inform us how 

long do you intend to be in America, for about America bad rumors 
are spreading, that it is to sink in, and even priests order us to 
pray for those who are 'in America. [Referring to the eruption in 
Martinique.] Now I inform you, dear son, what accidents happen 
in our country. Two men were going away to America; one of 
them had money and was to pay for the other and for himself, 
but the one who had no money killed him. They were even 
brothers-in-law and kums. And in Ostrowite also a man killed 
another. 3 May this be a lesson for you, my dear son, not to 
believe too much and not to be overconfident in friendship 


1 Perfectly typical father's harangue. Cf. the address of the mother imme- 
diately following. As to the familial standpoint of the father and the more personal 
standpoint of the mother, cf. Introduction: "The Family." 

2 The spirit of the letter is like that of the mediaeval chronicles. The news is 
evidently derived from verbal rumors. 


77 October 27, 1902 

DEAR SON: .... As to your wish, we agree with it, if you think 
that your lot will be better. You cannot always live so lonely, so 
we, as your parents, permit you [to marry] and give you our parental 
blessing. May our Lord God, God's Mother and all the Saints bless 
you! We beg Him most heartily that He will grant you, your dear 
wife, her parents and all of us health and His blessing. 1 This we wish 
you with our parental heart. 

And we inform the parents of your wife that they can be willing, 
for you have been always very good to us, obedient in everything that 
can be expected from a child, so we guarantee that it will be so later 
on. And not only we, but all the people of the whole village, can 
gladly testify that you are from a good house 2 and of good conduct. 


78 July 29, 1903 

.... DEAR SON: .... We are late with the answer but on 
Sunday I was with Aleksander at the parish festival in Obory, for he 
joined the Scapulary Fraternity, 3 and on week-days we had no time, 
for we harvested. We received the money in June and at once father 
paid the debts You wrote us, dear son, to take a maid-servant, 

1 The future wife and her parents are thus taken at once into the family-group 
by making them share the expected effects of the blessing, whose object is the 

2 The presupposition that the origin of a man is a guaranty of his character. 
The same presupposition which allows a man in America to bring over a girl whom 
he does not know but whose family he knows. 

3 Religious fraternities are a very old institution; we find them in the earliest 
mediaeval traditions. They are of two types with and without a social end. 
The first exists mainly in towns, and develops mutual insurance (sickness, burial 
expenses, dowry, widowhood) and philanthropic activity (help to the poor, nursing 
in hospitals). In the country the merely religious form prevails, as there is less 
occasion for mutual insurance, and philanthropic activity remains familial or 
individual. The members gather periodically for common prayers and adoration 
and perform determined functions during solemn divine services. At a solemn 
mass they kneel in the middle of the church with burning candles; at a procession 
they carry feretories [moving altars], standards, candles; they do the same 
during the funeral of a member. Most of them develop choral singing. They 
are named according to their particular religious purpose, object, and means of 
their adoration fraternities of the Holiest Sacrament, Rosary fraternities, Scapu- 
lary fraternities, and those of particular saints. 


but the worst is that there is none to be found; they all go to America. 
Probably we shall manage alone until you come back. Aleksander 
can already help me in the heaviest work, he can already reach the 
sheaves to the cart and then pull them back [into the barn], and 
Frania also works as she can. So instead of sending money for the 
servant, if you have any, send them a little for okr^zne. 1 Then they 
will be still more willing to work, and when you come back we shall 

give you whatever we can Father was ill for a week; now he 

has already recovered I was so grieved, for father lay ill, and 

Michalek was on the journey such is my luck, that I am always at 
work and in grief. Such my life has been and such it will probably 
be up to the end. 2 

As to Michal, we tried by all means to persuade him not to go, 
particularly I told him about his journey, how it would be, and that 
he would be obliged to work heavily. But he always answered that 
he is ready to work, but he wants to get to America and to be with 
you. Now I beg you, dear son, if he is in grief [homesick], comfort him 
as much as you can and care for him. You wrote me, dear son, not 
to grieve about you, but my heart is always in pain that we are not 
all together or at least all in our country, that we might visit one 
another You asked us how many years there are since we 

1 Festival after the harvest. In some localities called "dozynki." It is one 
of the oldest pagan traditions. The word is used sometimes, as here, for the extra 
reward which the proprietor gives after a successful harvest. 

2 The pessimistic view expressed here and in many other letters, is particularly 
frequent whenever the peasant begins to reflect upon his life. On the contrary, hi 
practice he is usually very optimistic, he expects that in some undetermined way 
his action will have the desired effect even if rationally there seem to be no sufficient 
natural causes to produce this effect. Both the pessimism of reflection and the 
optimism of practice are rooted in the same attitude as the magical beliefs; the 
peasant does not give sufficient attention to the continuity between cause and effect. 
In his opinion a determined fact may produce another fact even if he does not see 
in what way this is possible, provided only those facts seem in some way connected 
with each other. So long as he is acting, he is inclined to hope against all probabil- 
ity; when he begins to reflect, the same insufficient analysis of the process of 
causation makes him fear also against all probability. (Cf. Introduction: "Reli- 
gious and Magical Attitudes," and note to No. 70.) There is also another reason 
why the old-type peasants tend to emphasize unconsciously hi their reflection the 
evil as against the good; it is the lack of any idea of advance. The modern type 
of peasant, with his strong tendency to climbing, is much more optimistic. Finally, 
as we shall see later, the peasant often complains insincerely. But here the 
attitude is evidently sincere. 


were married. Well, only the 24th year is going, since January. 
[Greetings.] And care for Michalek. 


79 November 20, 1903 

DEAR SON: .... We received your letter .... but we were 
not very glad, first because you wrote that Michal had .been ill without 
saying with what, and second, because you wrote that we don't care 

for you at all. You err much in saying so We could not send 

you the photograph for your name-day, because father was ill. We 
promised to send it on St. Michael's day, but we had no time, for the 
harvest lasted up to autumn, for first the weather was bad, and then 
in autumn it was fair; then we dug the potatoes. Afterward father 
brought fuel and plowed what was necessary for winter, and Alek- 
sander went to earn for his winter suit and boots, and we both [mother 
and daughter] worked industriously, and kept the stock. [Stock 
sold; debts paid; no money left.] It is easy for you to say that we 
don't care for you or begrudge a few zloty for this photograph ! In 
America nobody comes to you and calls: "Lend me money, for I 
have nothing to live," or, "Give me my money back." You wrote 
that you did not work for 7 weeks. But we must always work, like 
worms. [Greetings, Christmas wishes.] 


[Inclosed with the preceding letter.] .... Now I, your sister, 
did not forget you yet. I send you this flower as a token for these 
solemn holidays of Christmas, and I divide the wafer with you. 
[Wishes]. As to mother, don't write it ever again, that mother does 
not care about you for we can never reward mother for all these tears 

which she sheds More than once I have tried to comfort her, 

when mother weeps that you are not in this country 


80 May 17, 1904 

DEAR CHILDREN: .... We received your letter .... together 
with the photograph. We were very glad, so that we even wept from 
joy. You wrote, dear son, that you had a sad Easter, for you did 
not see your parents. I had also [sad holidays]. 1 When I arranged 

1 Holidays are always occasions on which there is a revival of familial feelings, 
and traditionally the whole family ought to meet. 


the swi$cone* I sat at the stove, and thought that there was nobody 
to make a swi$cone for you, and I wept. You wondered, dear children, 
why I look so sickly [in the photograph]. But you also look sickly 
and sad. Not only we say so, but all those who have seen you. Every- 
body wonders particularly about Janek, who looked fatter and merrier 
on the other photograph. Some people envy us that you write so 
often and that on every holiday you send something, either money 

or a photograph that you don't forget about your parents 

Now we inform you about our farming. We had 4 horses; we 
sold one of them and got 50 roubles, for they were sick. We have 
2 cows, 2 calves and a young cow, one year old, and more than 20 
bee-hives. Father has sowed rape for them, and now it blossoms; 
and there is such a humming as if somebody were playing an accor- 
deon. Now I inform you about the crops. Rye is nice up to the 
present; summer grains are nice above, but it has been too wet 
below, for it rains often. This year is like the last one; up to the 
present some people have not planted the potatoes, for they cannot 
plow, but we planted and sowed everything, thanks to God and to 

God's Mother 


8 1 June 26, 1904 

.... Now I inform you about the misfortune which befell your 
aunt and uncle Smentkowski. On June 25 lightning struck Anneczka 
[their daughter] and killed her and the Zwolenski child. At 4 o'clock 
in the afternoon she was sitting near the kitchen stove and your aunt 
was standing near holding the child. The lightning came in through 
the chimney and went out through both windows, but thanks to God, 
it did not burn the house. So we beg you, and they also, for the love 
of God inform their whole family [the children in America] about it, 
and ask them, that someone among the four of them come. They 
are old and cannot work. Moreover, your aunt is often sick, and 

1 On Easter all kinds of food which the peasant uses during the year are con- 
secrated by the priest. The consecration, by a magical symbolism, is supposed 
to sanctify and purify any food of the same kind which the family will eat 
till the following Easter. The custom is connected with the old pagan spring 
festival. Easter eggs are also consecrated and form an indispensable part of the 
Swiqcone. At the same tune, there is a connection with fasting: Lent ends on 
Easter, and the first meat, dairy, and alcoholic drink after the fasting must be 
consecrated before being consumed. 


what will now happen after such a misfortune ! .... Your aunt could 
not write from grief, and we can write no more, for tears drown our 


If I wrote you badly, excuse me, for my hands trembled from all 


82 July 21, 1904 

DEAR CHILDREN: .... Now we inform you in what way the 
Zwolenski child was killed. It was so. The Smenkowskis came from 
the field and the uncle remained in the garden, while the aunt and 
Andzia [Anneczka] came back home and brought firewood. The 
aunt took Zwolenska's child for it wanted to go to her. Zwolenska 
wished later to take it, but it did not want to go to her, so your aunt 
took it and they went into their house, and Zwolenska into her house. 
Your aunt sat down near the table with the child, and Anneczka sat 
down near the stove, and when the lightning struck, it killed both 
Anneczka and the child. Your aunt alone remained alive and called 
to Anneczka, telling her to go away, or she would be burned. Imme- 
diately your uncle ran into the room and people gathered. They took 
Anneczka and the child and dug them into the earth, but they did not 
awaken. And now I explain to you in what a manner the Zwolenskis 
were there [the Z's were manor-servants, and had to live hi manorial 
buildings] . They lived first in the osmioraki [long house for 8 families] ; 
there they could not come to an understanding with their neighbors, 
and got a lodging in the czworaki [house for 4 families]. They had 
lived there hardly a week when the czworaki burned down; but they 

did not lose many things, for people came and saved them 

Thence they moved to the same house where the Smenkowskis live. 
And I inform you about the burial, how uncle had her buried. It cost 
him 20 roubles [to the priest]. The priest went to meet the procession, 
boys brought her to the church, and there she stood upon a catafalque 
during the whole holy mass. Thence the priest led and church- 
servants brought her to the cemetery. There were many people, 
for she was in a [religious] fraternity and bore the flag [during 
processions]. Everybody wept, for she was liked and respected. 
But your uncle did not regret any expenses, saying that this was her 


You asked whether Antoni would be exempted from military 
service as a guardian [of his old parents]. Now, during the war, no 
exemption is valid. Your uncle would be glad to see them [Antoni 
and wife] if they came to work, for he is already weak; but should 
Antoni come back and go again to another country [to the Japanese 
war], they would be still more grieved. 

Whoever of them is to come let him come the soonest possible, for 
now there is continuous work. And perhaps the aunt would sooner 
forget Anusia [if she had another child with her] 


[Letter of July 21 contains further details about the death and funeral 
of Anneczka and the child.] 

83 September 24, 1904 

.... DEAR SON: .... We are very glad that you are in good 
health and that you succeed well, so that you even want to take us to 
America. But for us, your parents, it seems that there is no better 
America than in this country. Your father says that he is too weak 
and sickens too often. I should be glad to see you, but it is impossible 
to separate ourselves in our old age. I have also no health; particu- 
larly my arms are bad .... and you wrote that in America one 
must work hard, and often cannot get work even if he wants it, while 
here we have always work and we can hire somebody to do the heavy 
labor. You wrote me, dear son, that you will send me a gift. I was 
very glad, not so much because of the gift as because of your good 

Dear son, when I learned from your letter and from Frania 
[Smentkowska] that you love reading, I was gladder than if you had 
sent me a hundred roubles. 1 May our Lord God bless you further, 
may God's Mother of Cze.stochowa cover you with her mantle from 
every evil and every misfortune. 

Now, dear sons, I inform you that I want to let Frania learn dress- 
making, for she respects her parents and is obedient, and secondly, 

1 Interesting appreciation for seemingly devoid of any idea of the practical 
application of learning which is so emphasized in the movement for instruc- 
tion carried on by the newspapers. Back of this appreciation is probably the 
idea that reading keeps one away from mischief and denotes a seriousness of 


because she is too weak for heavy work. Although it will cost us, yet 

if we live, we must leave her at least such a token I 

Your aunt and uncle and Frania [Smentkowska's cousin] greet 
you, and they greet their own children. Auntie says that Antosia 
ought to remember her mother's old age and send her [money] for a 
warm dress for winter 


84 November 8, 1904 

.... DEAR SON: .... You wrote about a church-certificate, 
but we don't know which one you wanted. Father got your birth- 
certificate. Is it good or not ? And as to my family, about which you 
wanted to learn, our priest says that in his records there is nothing, 
but we must go to the mayor of the commune. Your father will do 
it when he finds time. Dear son, you say that it is well if everybody 
knows about his family for many years [past]. But only those people 
can know whose parents live long, while I was 4 years old when my 
parents died. How can I know anything about my family? 2 I 
asked your aunt, but she does not know either. She says only that 
some years ago a paper from Prussia came, that some money there 
was owed to us, some family-inheritance. But there was nobody to 
go for it, and your uncle did not wish to go, for he said that perhaps 
it was not worth going for. 

You wrote, dear son, that probably we shall not see one another 
any more. We were very grieved, and particularly I was. But we 

1 This desire to give the girl technical instruction already involves a modifica- 
tion of the primitive economic attitudes; the individual is no longer conceived as 
exclusively dependent upon the family, familial property ceases to be the only basis 
of individual existence, and there is a tendency to advance along the line of an 
improvement of work and income, not merely of an increase of property. (Cf. 
Introduction: "Economic Attitudes.") But the whole attitude is still evidently 
new, for the technical instruction is conceived as a gift, justified by exceptional 

3 We have here a good proof that the peasant family is essentially only an 
actual social group, and does not depend upon the remembrance of the preceding 
generations, as does the noble European family (heraldic continuity) or the ancient 
Roman family (cult of the spirits of the ancestors). The ancestry is traced only as 
far as the actual, real connection between the living members requires. (Cf . Intro- 
duction: "The Family.") In the present case the son's demand is clearly felt 
as strange; he is influenced either by the idea of the noble family (probably drawn 
from his reading), or by economic considerations the hope of getting some 
unexpected inheritance. 


should grieve still worse if you had to go to this bloodshedding. And 
perhaps we shall see one another yet, if they annoy us further [for 
we shall go to America]. Already they have raised the taxes, and now 
it is said that they will take the cows; whoever has four will have only 

one left I You wrote, dear son, that you and Michal listen 

much to each other. I am very glad. Nothing could make me so 

glad as this r ~ , , 


As to Michalek, we don't write to him, for he does not write to us 
either, as if he had forgotten us. 

85 December 18, 1905 

.... DEAR SON : . . . . You ask about Frania, how much her 
learning and living will cost. When we sent her there, we agreed 
upon 55 roubles, but now she only dines there, and buys breakfast and 
supper herself, so we don't know how much we shall pay. She learns 
with the daughter of Brunkowski, who was manager of the estate of 
Gulbiny 30 years ago and lives now in Dobrzyn 

And Frania, how clever and cunning she is! When I persuaded 
her that [her learning] would cost us much, and that I did not learn , 
she said that I had no parents, while she has and she wants to have 
some token from them. 

Now I advise you to marry, so perhaps you will be happier, as 

Antoni and other people are 2 r ., T -. 


86 February 6, 1906 

.... DEAR SON [Michal] : . . . . We received the money today 
.... and we thank you kindly and heartily for this money, we your 
parents, your brother, and also I your sister, for most of it is destined 
for me [Frania] 

I came to our parents on February 2, and I learned that many 
young men come, but the girls don't seem to want them, and probably 
there will be no marriage this year. 3 Cousin Frania [Smentkowska] 

1 Anything may be expected of the government. Cf. note to No. 70, and 
Introduction: "Social Environment." 

2 He evidently did not marry the girl mentioned in No. 77. 

3 Marrying assumes often an epidemical character in a village or parish. 
There comes a year when, without any apparent reason, the number of weddings 
assumes an astonishingly high proportion; then again, as in the present case, the 


says that she won't marry until you come back. And I inform you, 
dear brother, that I am learning embroidery, and it goes on pretty 
well. Now I have no time to write more for I must go back to 

Dobrz y n [FRANIA] 

87 February 18, 1906 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... You write us to sell [our property] 
and to go to you. We should be very glad to see you, if even only a 
few days before our death, but perhaps you heard yourself how difficult 
it is now to be admitted, particularly for old people. It is true that 
here we must work heavily, and [get cash] only for taxes and fuel, and 
even this is difficult to get. But your father persuades us that if we 
sold it and then were not admitted [to America], we should then have 
no place to go. Then we say that, if even only two of us went [one 
of the parents with one child], the two remaining would not be able 

to do all the work and the longing would be still greater 


[Letter of one page, March 6, requests the children "not to travel so 
much about America, as it is a spending of money and some accident might 
happen." Also that they receive the newspaper Gazeta Swi^teczna at home 
and preserve the copies.] 

88 May 24, 1906 
.... DEAR SON: You wrote us that you intend to marry and 

you asked us for our blessing. We send it to you. May our Lord 
God help you, and God's Mother of Cze/stochowa, and all the saints. 
It is very sad for us that we cannot be at your wedding, but let God'; 
will be done. But we are anxious whether you have met a good girl, 
for it happened already that one man from Gulbiny wrote how he 
got married [in America]. He lived for only a year with her, for she 
stole his whole fortune and went, nobody knows where. I thank you 
for your flowers; we adorned half the house with them, and when 
come into the room and look at them, I shed tears. 


Now, dear brother, I send you a little tobacco. I had no tinn 
to send it to your wedding, so at least I want it to come to your name- 

marriage season (December-February) passes without a single wedding. The 
reason seems to be imitation, or rather a certain common attitude developed among 
the boys or girls during a given period a kind of fashion. 


day. And I beg you, send me the watch, for you don't need it now 
any more. 


89 October 29, 1906 

.... DEAR SON [Michal]: .... We received your letter. 
.... We are glad that you are in good health for we thought that 
you all were dead [allusion to their not writing]. You had written, 
dear son, that you would write us something curious, so we waited 
impatiently thinking that perhaps you were already journeying home. 
.... So now when we read this letter of yours we were very much 
grieved, for we remember you ten times a day and it is very painful 
to us that you evidently forget us. Dear son, since you did not come, 
surely we shan't see one another in this world, for this year a penalty 
was established, that if anybody who belongs to the army [who is of 
the age to be called] went away, his father must pay big money for 
him, and when he comes back after some years, he must serve his 
whole time in the disciplinary battalion. This is a still greater 
penalty than for these reservists who went away before the war, for 
these have only 2 months of prison or 300 roubles to pay. The 
punishment is not so severe, for Cieszenski [a reservist who did not 
come from America until after the war] has even earned 7 roubles 
during this time [of prison]. 1 

Dear son, you write that you are getting on well enough. Thanks 
to God for this, but we beg you, we your parents, not to forget about 
God, then God won't forget about you. It is very hard for us that 
we cannot see you. More than once we shed bitter tears that we 

have brought you up and now we cannot be with you May we 

at least merit to be in heaven together 


1 Prison for offenses against the state, for violation of police ordinances, and 
in general for offenses which do not imply the condemnation of social opinion is not 
considered a serious punishment except for the loss of tune. Prison for slight 
administrative offenses can usually be converted into fine, but the peasant always 
chooses prison. A curious incident characterizing the peasant's attitude toward 
the Russian state occurred four years ago in a commune of the province of Piotrk6w. 
When the district chief of that commune proposed to the peasants to contribute a 
certain sum toward the expenses involved in the celebration of the jubilee of the 
imperial family, there was some hesitation. Finally an old peasant, after some 
talk with the others, stepped forward and said, " Could we not sit instead ? " 


90 April 26, 1908 

DEAR CHILDREN: .... We received your letter and the post- 
notification on Good Friday evening when we came back from the 
passion [service commemorating the sufferings of Jesus]. So we read 
only about your health, for we were very tired for it rained the whole 
week, even on Sunday morning. So we read your letter only on the 
first day of Easter, after the divine service, and only then we learned 
the rest. 1 At once Aleksander went on the third day for the tokens 
[holy images, etc.] and got them. We thank you heartily. May our 
Lord God reward you. We are glad, dear children, that you remember 
about God. Thank you once more for these tokens and for your letter 
so nicely written. 

Dear children, you write that you think about taking Aleksander 
to America. But we and our work, for whom would it be left ? You 
would all be there and we here. While if he goes to the army for 
3 years and God keeps him and brings him happily back, he would 
help us as he does now. Well, perhaps Frania could remain upon this 
[the farm] ; but even so we could see him no more [forever, if he escaped 
military service]. Moreover, now whole throngs of people are coming 
back from America .... and the papers write that it won't be 
better, but worse. And about this army [service] we don't know yet 
how it will be, for it is intended to have a communal decision when 
the chief of the district asks. So if the Gulbinaks answer that 
Michalek is not there and does not write, he [Aleksander] could 
perhaps be exempted. But if people say that sometimes he [Micha- 
lek] sends news of himself, then nothing can be done, for though he 
does not write himself, Ulecka wrote to your uncle that he was there, 
and your uncle does not give the letters to us at home to read but 

goes to Lisiecki, so that everybody learns at once 2 


* The fact shows how difficult and important a matter are the reading and 
writing of letters with the peasant. This must be kept in mind if we are to appre- 
ciate how much familial attachment is implied in frequent letter-writing, and how 
the peasants themselves consider the frequency and length of letters a sign of this 

1 As in Russia the number of recruits needed is less than the number of young 
men of eligible age, there are different kinds of exemption. A man is exempted 
when he is an only son, or when he is the oldest son and his father is at an age when 
he is supposed not to be able to support his family. A certain number is also 
exempted because of defective health, and out of the remainder a number, fixed for 


91 November 15, 1908 

DEAR CHILDREN: .... We are late with our answer, for we 
have waited [to see] what will become of Aleksander. Now it is 
decided that he must serve. On December i, they will go away. 
Father could do nothing, for the officials with whom he tried to settle 
the matter went away and others came, and now there is another 
mayor, and when the decision was made at the communal meeting 
the Gulbinaks [inhabitants of Gulbiny] said that Michalek is alive 
and writes. Particularly your uncle Smentkowski said it. Then no 
exemption was possible; it would cost big money and even so it would 
not be certain. It will be very hard for us without him, for you know, 
dear children, that we are no longer young. It will be very painful 
for us to be alone, but we cannot help it. At least we are glad that 
you succeed well enough, as you inform us. We beg you heartily, 
don't forget about us, but write as often as you can, for it is particu- 
larly painful for me and I shed tears more than once. I have had so 
many troubles with you, I bred you, and now in my old age, when I 

can work no more, you left me, all of you 


92 March 9, 1909 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: You write us that you are very much 
pained at our being alone, and that Janek intends to come to us. We 
should be very glad, but we don't wish you to have any losses through 
us, and we should grieve still more about Michalek if he remained 
there alone. Now you are two, so if God forbid! some sickness 
or accident happens, you can help each other. During this year we 
shall still manage alone, if our Lord God grants us health and life, for 
Frania will leave her sewing and will help, and Stanislaw Ochocki, for 
whom your father carried bricks when he built his house, will help us 
also. As to the rest, we shall hire somebody from time to time, for 
a servant must now be paid much, and even so it is difficult to get 

each community beforehand, is selected by drawing lots. Thus in the place of 
each man exempted because of the family situation or health some other member 
of the commune must serve. And as the commune must certify that a young man 
ought to be exempted because of his family situation, evidently the members of 
the commune are not eager to exempt anyone without real reasons. Therefore 
the efforts to exempt Aleksander fail, for the commune knows that the old man has 
another son. 


any, for everybody goes either to America, or to Prussia for season- 
work. And so we shall live this year alone, for we don't wish to get 
Frania married this year, although some [boys] have called on her 
already and begged [to be allowed to court her]. We are too sad now 
after Aleksander left us. Perhaps next year, if some good party 
appears, we won't oppose her marrying, lest she might complain about 
us later on. Then, if we cannot get on alone, and if it is impossible 
to find a good servant, we hope that you will help us [and come]. 
But now, if the work is better, earn for yourselves, and may our Lord 
God help you and bless you, and God's Mother of Czestochowa, 
our dear children! 

Dear son Michalek, we are very glad that you have begun to 
occupy yourself with farming [literally: country-housekeeping] and 
that you succeed pretty well, since you keep so many young ones 
[poultry ? rabbits ?]. Frania envied your having so many and she had 
none. I was obliged to find some, and she will receive them as a gift 
from a man from Rypin [OsmsKis] 

93 August 23, 1909 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... When we read your letters, we 
were very much grieved, but nothing can be done. We must submit 
to fortune. If you cannot come back to us we must find another way. 
Although it is painful, we must be pained for some time, if our Lord 
God allows us to live longer. We should not like to scatter our old 
bones about the world. Here we have worked for so many years, so 
we should be glad to rest here, on our fathers' soil. 1 And you work 
and find your own way as well as you can. May our Lord God help 
you, since, alas! we cannot be together, dear children. [Crops; 
weather.] You wrote us to send you tobacco and honey through 
Bendykowski. If he goes and if he will take it, we will send you some. 
Zygmunt K. from Trabin took your address, but now it is impossible 
to believe everybody. Perhaps he will do as Zieleniak did. 


1 Typical arguments of old people against emigration. This attitude, how- 
ever, gave way completely during the emigration fever to Brazil. People of seventy 
were seen going with their children and even inciting them to go. Two reasons 
may explain this difference. The emigrants were to settle in Brazil upon land, and, 
as it seems, almost all of these old emigrants to Brazil were manor-servants or 
parents of manor-servants, not farmers. In the same way the old S^kowskis (see 
that series) do not hesitate to go to America. 


94 September 28, 1909 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: We wrote to you, but you would not 
come, so father is trying to get Aleksander back. It is hard for us 
to work, but we shall be obliged to get on as well as we can. But this 
is worse, that if he ends his military service, afterward he will be often 
called to the commune, and still further [to drill]. And there are 
rumors about a possible war, and Aleksander begs us to get him back, 
if we can. So father went to that official and told him that there is no 
news of Michal at all for some years. He told father to get a cer- 
tificate, confirmed by the consul, that Michal was lost somewhere. 
So I, your father, wanted to ask your advice, dear children, and 
particularly yours, dear son Janek, for you have been more in the 
world. Advise me, whether you could not get there such a certificate, 
for it would be very useful, for without any big cost he would be set 
free. I beg you very much, dear children, try to get it, if you can. 
And Michalek, if he wants to come back some day, could take a 
passport as an American 


95 December 9, 1909 

.... DEAR SON: You write us that it is dangerous [the arrange- 
ment to get Aleksander out of the army]. When we reflected about 
the matter, we acknowledge that you are right and we thank you for 
your advice. Nothing can be done, such is evidently the will of God, 
for we can by no means have him exempted. Probably he must suffer 
his whole appointed time. If only Lord Jesus grants health to us and 
to him, perhaps we shall still live up to his return and he will help us. 
Could we only get a servant now! It is really hard for us to work 
alone. When your father walks a few steps he complains of his legs, 
and I have also pain in my arms and legs, and we must always work 
in the soil. [Crops; weather.] 

Now, dear children, come the solemn holidays of Christmas. We 
are here, three of us, while you are there in distant foreign countries. 
But there is the same God, our best Father. So we commit you, dear 
children, and ourselves to His care, we are confident in his holiest will, 
and we hope that this Jesus born [on this day] will not desert you and 
will bless you, if you only love him. And we, on the occasion of this 
solemn commemoration, send you this wafer and we divide it with 
you, wishing you every good, and health. Dear children, spend 


merrily these holidays and during this solemnity remember kindly 
your parents and your sister who longs for you. Oh, if we could see 
one another once more ! May God grant it, Amen. [Typical Christ- 
mas wishes; less formal than usual.] 


96 January 10, 1910 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: I, your father, write to you these few 
words. First, I inform you that Frania intends to marry after Easter, 
and on this occasion I ask you, whether you will also require your 
parts or any money. I suppose that you are somewhat better off, for 
you economized, i.e., earned some money, so perhaps you will bequeath 
it [your parts of the inheritance] to them, i.e., to Frania and Alos 
[Aleksander]. For if it came to sending this to you, it would not be 
worth while, for in American money it would be only a half. So I beg 
you very much, dear children, reflect and answer me, for I should like 
to have peace with you all before I die, that you might not disturb 
me [my will] later on, as it often happens. I am now weaker and 
weaker, I often fall sick, so I should like to die in peace, when this 
last hour comes. Now I inform you that I still try to get Aleksander 
free, but I don't know whether our Lord God will allow me to succeed 
in getting him out of this jaw. Now, dear children, we beg you once 
more, we your parents, inform us as soon as possible how you decide 
there. Then we would also know how do you advise Frania to do, for 
she had already some opportunities [to marry], rather good ones, but 
she knows how we despair about you, dear children, that we educat 
you and now we have none with us, so she lingered, wishing to 

longer with us J 


1 The letter is important for the understanding of the relation of family-lif 
and the economic situation. The dominant factor in the father's attitude is 
wish to assure the integrity of the farm after his death. In this wish a complex i 
various feelings is involved the love of the farm as the object of his work; 
complicated, not exclusively economic, but partly social idea of property; the ide 
of family as a continuity of generations, and the wish that his family may have it 
the future a standing in the village and community. (Cf. Cugowski series.) 
The situation is complicated by the fact that the farm is really the wife's property 
and that one son (Jan) is the old man's stepson, having therefore a particular moral 
right to the inheritance. 


97 February 28, 1910 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... You ask us whether we could 
not send you about 2,000 roubles. 1 But it is true, dear children, that 
we have not so much money of our own, for you know yourselves that 
it is not so long ago since we built the house, and then we spent all our 
money and even made some debts. Later we economized [earned] 
some money but we built a barn, as we wrote you, and this cost also 
enough. Why, from 12 morgs there is not such a big income, and the 
expenses are different and many taxes and fuel and various others. 
This year a priest's house and two schools will be built in our commune, 
so money will be continually required. We have still some money, but 
we are trying to get Aleksander free, and this year we have hired a 
servant, whom we must pay 30 roubles [a year]. He is 17 years old, 
but nevertheless it will be much easier for us. So we can send you 
nothing from our own money. We could perhaps get some money 
by borrowing, but at interest, and then if we could not pay it back 
they would sell our farm, as often happens. Moreover, you would 
receive only, so to speak, half the sum [in dollars], so it is not worth 
while. Therefore you must find your own way, dear children, as you 
can, for if you were here in our country, we would share our last 
copeck with you. 2 We thought, dear children, that you had paid 
everything, and we are very much pained that you still have trouble 
with your debts. And we cannot help you at all. You must forgive 
us this time, for it is already too difficult for us, old people. [Acquaint- 
ances; weather.] 

Now we inform you that in our country a greater and greater 
movement spreads out. Everywhere shops [consumers' associations] 

1 The sum is the probable share of inheritance which the sons in America, 
both together, would have if the property were equally divided, as a good farm of 
twelve morgs is worth about 4,000 roubles. 

2 All 'the excuses are trifling. The expenses enumerated except the house, 
which was built nine years before, are really small. Borrowing money by mortgage 
is easy, on a very long term, and the difficulty of paying the interest is hardly real 
in peasant life. The old man wishes to preserve the familial property intact, and 
feels that in separating themselves from the family interests they have separated 
themselves from the right of participation in its property also. This shows that 
the mere sentimental connection between individuals, without an active group- 
organization, could never explain the family hi its whole social reality. On the 
contrary, this sentimental connection is only a secondary effect of the group- 
solidarity, and remains after the group has disintegrated. 


are set up, and agricultural circles. Well, and if somebody comes in a 
few years into our village he won't be able to recognize it. There 
is this brick-factory, so in one place they dig holes, in another again 
they cover holes, so that it is difficult to get to the lake where the mill 
was, and the forge is falling down, for they have dug under it. 
Mr. Piwnicki [the manor-owner] has now such a beautiful environ- 
ment near his palace! The factory has been rented by the dziedzic 
[heir; estate-owner. Half -honorific title] from Trombin, and he 
established a telephone from Trombin to Gulbiny. Now a common 
store is set up, and they intend to build also a common bakery. Soon 
everything will be like hi a town. Many people from our count 
intend to go to America. And another bit of news: a star with a t 
or a so-called comet, appeared in the sky, on the western side. 1 

Now we have nothing more of interest to write, only we wish you 

health and happiness Remember, dear children, God and 

our holy faith and our beloved fatherland, then our Lord God will 

not leave you and will help you 


98 August 2, 1910 

.... DEAR SON [JAN] : We thank you for having written us 
much news. It is a pleasure for us that you at least don't forget 
and inform us that you are alive, for as to Michalek [if we depended 
on him], we should never know anything about you. It is very painful 
for us that a year has passed since he wrote us a few words with his 
own hand. Does he want to forget about us altogether ? [Health, 
weather; harvest.] 

And so everything is going on in the usual way. As to the news 
of the world, you know more than we do, dear children, though we also 
keep a paper and read different books. You write, dear son, that 
you long for your fatherland and would be glad to see it. Why, dear 
son, you can come back! Michalek cannot any more, but many such 
as you came back and nothing bad befel them. We should be glad 
also, dear children, to see you, but for us old people it is more difficult 
to drag our old bones about the world. So we ask you, dear children, . 
if you intend to remain in America for many years still, you could 
visit us this winter. Many people come here for some time and then 

1 This news is evidently added to weaken the impression of the refusal to send 


go back. We beg you heartily, dear children, come to us if you can, 
but don't wait till winter for now it is nicer here than in winter, and 
it would be merry for us. May God grant it to be accomplished! 


99 December 5, 1910 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: We inform you that now we are alone, 
father and I [because Frania is married], and I am very sad and 
I don't care any more for this farm and household. Were it not 
for that water I would go at once into the world after you. I did 
not expect, dear children, that in my old age I should have to live 
alone in our house. I look at the walls around, I see you [pictures] 
which Frania hung there but what! I cannot speak with you. I 
could still see Janek at any time, but I shan't probably see Michal 
in this world 

Now, dear children, we inform you about Frania. It is very 
painful for us to be without her. When he took her away, we all 
wept. But still they visit us and come to us often, and he is up to the 
present very polite to us. They wonder, for they sent you their 
photograph and have no answer yet. [Weather; Christmas wishes; 


100 January 7, 1911 

DEAR CHILDREN: We thank you for your letter with the wafer. 
We pray to God that he inay keep you hi His guardianship, and since 
by His holiest will we must be separated far from one another, may 
He grant us to be again together, if not in this world, then to be happy 
in the other world. 

I am very glad, dear children, that you are so well-disposed to one 
another. When Janek was in the army and wrote for money, Micha- 
lek always spoke for him, that we must send him some, and now Janek 
got easy work for him, and you agree also with one another. This 
rejoices us very much. And we beg you, inform us whether you have 
still much to pay for your house, and how are you getting on with your 
farming [probably only gardening and poultry-keeping] 

Now we inform you that together with your letter we got also a 
letter from Alos. He comforts us [by saying] that he will be free in 


October. May God grant us to live up to this time. [Weather.] 
We have spent the holidays alone. On the star-evening [Christmas 
eve] Frania and Adas [the son-in-law] were with us, and then your 
mother went with them to the pastoral service [night-service on 
Christmas, called so in commemoration of the legendary shepherds]. 
When we are at church, we always visit them and they also visit us 
on Sunday afternoon, but on week-days we are alone, and we long for 

you and we remember you often 

Your loving parents, 


[Letter of May 10, 1911, explaining again why they cannot go 


101 June 17, 1911 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: We did not answer you at once, for we 
waited for the Radomski boy to come to us [from America]. But 
we have not seen him yet. I saw only Radomski, his father, who said 
that he had sore feet. But I learned almost nothing from his father, 
and it is difficult for me to be there, for we are now alone. Even our 
servant went to America, and now in the summer it is difficult to get 
another. Only Frania and Adas visit us sometimes, and help us a 
little. So we did not learn anything, only Radomski mentioned 
something I was pained at, as he said Janek has learned to swear 
and does not respect his wife much. I don't know whether I ought 
to believe it, but if it is so, then, dear son, it is not very pleasant for 

me, your mother 


102 February 17, 1912 

The first words of our letter to you, dear children: "Praised be 
Jesus Christus." Then we inform you that we received your letter 
wfiich found us in good health and success, and from which we learned 
about your dear health. This rejoiced us the most, dear children, 
when our Lord God gives you health. And it rejoiced us, dear son, 
that you wrote at such length in your letter about your success. May 
our Lord God help you the best possible and bless you for your further 
life. This we wish you, we your parents. And also Frania with her 
husband and little son sends you greetings and good wishes, and in 


general all your relatives and acquaintances. May God grant it. 
A* 1611 ' 1 [OSINSKIS] 

103 February 6, 1913 

DEAR SON [JAN] AND DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: .... I received your 
letter and I am very glad that you are in good health, but it is very 
disagreeable to me that you wrote such a complaining letter. My dear 
son, I beg you don't send me such letters, for happily I learned about 
this letter, got it myself and had it read, and I did not show this one 
sheet at all at home, for if they had received this letter, I should have 
much displeasure to bear from them, for your father and Aleksander 
would be very much pained. We received a letter also from Michalek, 
but he did not write wrongly and did not quarrel as you did, only he 
thanked and asked father to send him this money when he was able, 
and did not require more than that. Dear son, you say so [that it is 
too little?], and you count so dear this farm, but if you knew what 
expenses are now, larger and larger. Formerly it was possible to 
save much more money, for everything was not so expensive, and 
such large taxes were not collected. Now a priest's house, then a 
school was built, and for all, this money is collected from us, the 
farmers. Dear son, Aleksander must give us living and covering 
[clothes] and fuel costs 30 roubles a year .... and with his wife 
he did not get any big money either. He got what God helped 
him to, so now he must also spare in order to be able to exist. So 
don't imagine at all, dear children, that you have too small payments, 
for if you were here, dear son, you would know how great the expenses 
are, and you would not envy at all, for there is nothing to envy. 

Now I beg you, don't answer this letter at all, for I wrote it only 
from myself; they don't even know it at all. When father sends you 

a letter, answer only then 

Your mother, 


Don't be angry, dear children, for my sending you this letter 
without stamp, but I had no money for it. 

1 An empty and perfunctory letter written by Aleksander in the name of 
his parents. The greetings at the beginning and end are greatly abridged in 
comparison with those in the letters written by Frania. For example, the latter 
always enumerated the "relatives and acquaintances" who sent greetings. This 
and two other letters written by thg son and here omitted show how the form and 
content of the letter depend on the person who acts as secretary. 


104 March 12, 1913 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... We inform you about our success. 
We succeed well enough, thanks to God. The weather does not annoy 
us too much. We think already about work in the field. When our 
Lord God grants the soil to get dry, we will go at once to work, for 
in the barn we have threshed everything. This only is bad, that 
gram is exceedingly cheap, so all this remains in the barn. Write 
us what is the news there about our country, for you know more than 
we do [because of the censure]. We inform you only, that industry 
and commerce develop more and more in our country, common 
[co-operative] shops are set up, they wish to kill the Jewish trade, but 
we don't know whether it will succeed. Now, as to your inheritance, 
which you asked us to send you, it would be well, but the money is in 
the savings-bank, and when I wanted to take it, they refused to give 
any interest until the money has remained a whole year. So I 
reflect, let it remain till the end of the year; only then will I send it to 
you. Why should we give them these roubles for nothing ? J I ask 
you moreover, advise me, for you are more in the world. I intend to 
go to you after the swarming of the bees, so write me whether it is 
better to go with a [prepaid] ship-ticket or for ready money, and 
whether I can yet come to you. Answer me, and after swarming I 
will prepare myself to visit you, for you cannot come, and I would be 
glad to see you before my death 

After reading this letter give it to Janek, for it does not pay to 
write separate letters to you both, so I wrote it upon a single 

[Your father, 


105 September 3, 1913 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... We wait for your letter, but we 
hear nothing. We don't know what happened to you. Perhaps you 
are angry with us for not having sent the money to you ? 

Now we inform you that here is a farm to sell after Szczepan B. 
['s death]. Janek remembers it certainly. We write it because Janek 
promised to come back to our country. So if he wanted to settle 
upon a farm we could buy it with your money and Janek could pay 


1 This is only a pretext. The real reason is given in the following letter. 


his part to Michalek there, and here he would have this farm. There 
are 9 morgs of land, good buildings. The proprietor wants 2,000 
roubles for it. So speak with one another. If Janek wants to come 
back upon a piece of land, answer us. 1 He [the proprietor] asks you to 
answer in any case, whether so or not. And inform us how you 
succeed. Then we shall write you more news in another letter. Now 
we end our few words and wish you health and every good. 

Your loving parents 

Also Adam, Frania, Zygmus and Walcia greet you. Also Alos 
and Julka wish you every good. 

Now I, your mother, must also send you a few words. You have 
always spoken in favor of Alos, that he might remain with us, and 
your father also wanted him [to take the farm]. But he does not 
know now how to be grateful to us. He is not very good to us, and 
our daughter-in-law sees how he does and does not respect us either. 
She told me. to go to my half of the house. Now it is still worse for 
me than it was while I was alone. Then I knew that I had nobody, 
but now I have a son and a daughter-in-law, and it is not good enough 
for them to speak to us. And I am so sad now. It is difficult for me 
to go to Frania, and she has children and cannot visit me often either. 
Dear children, if you don't intend to come back to our country forever, 
could you perhaps visit us for some time ? Please inform Janek also 
about it, and when you answer me, I beg you, dear children, send the 

letter to Frania's address 

Your loving mother, 


1 06 November 4, 1913 

.... DEAR CHILDREN: .... This year we shall still remain 
with Aleksander, as we have lived up to the present, but next year 
we shall probably live and board separately, for we don't wish to 
importune [burden] them too much. 

Then, dear son, as to this money, I write you from myself, that 
I have spoken to father for your sake, asking him to send you the 

1 As soon as the possibility of the son's returning and settling in his native 
village appears all the reasons quoted by the father for not paying at once his part 
of the inheritance disappear; the father is ready to spend all the money immediately 
in buying land for him. Of course the reason is that the son by returning would 
become again a member of the family-group. 


money now, but father told me, that we don't know how long we have 
still to live, and he is afraid to remain without money at all, for there 
is ro money stipulated from Aleksander [only natural products]. 
Fr her counted that you are rather well off there and that you won't 
re. "'re your dues at once, and for a few years still we shall be able 
to ^et the interest from this sum. So I beg you, my dear children, 
don't be angry and don't grieve. That which is yours won't be lost 
to you; even if we don't add anything, nothing will be missing. I 
w" )ok after it myself [literally: I shall be in it]. And now manage 
as . ^u can, my dear children. It is very painful for me, not to be able 
to h :lp you, but really at present I can do nothing. 

Now, dear children, remember me at least, your mother, who have 
bred you! God alone knows how many tears I have shed that, for all 
my suffering and troubles about you when you were small children, 
I have now nobody to comfort me, nobody to speak merrily with. If 
I could, I would fly to you, but surely I shan't have now any opportu- 
nity to see you in this world, for I feel by my bones that every- 
thing is more or less diseased. So I beg you once more, speak to 
us at least through paper. May I not have this disappointment, at 



107 [GULBINY, September 9, 1901] 

I, your sister Franciszka, write to you also that I am in good 

health Don't be angry with me for not having written to you 

nicely or much [in letter for mother of same date] I beg you, 

dear brothers, inform me what is the news in your country, for in our 
country there are frequent misfortunes and accidents. Karpinski 
was nearly killed by his horses. He lies as if he were without a soul. 

In Upielsk half the village is burned down In Bozomin the 

miller mounted upon the windmill to cover it. He fell down am 

was killed, and so on, continually I 




1 The first of Frania's letters show a characteristic interest in any extraordinary 
happenings in the community and neighborhood. With this anecdotic interest in 
the neighbors' life the peasant child gets its first introduction into the life of the 
community. The town child lacks in general this interest in the doings of grown-up 
people, except those of its parents and teachers. Cf. also Borek series. 


1 08 November 12, 1901 

I, Franciszka, your sister, greet you and inform you about my 
success, that I was digging [potatoes] for 4 days and I earned 4 
zloty [60 copecks]. I hoped that I should earn at least for a second 
skirt for myself and for mother. 1 But it rains and there are cold 
winds, and they [the parents] have still potatoes to dig, for a week at 
least [so I cannot go to work elsewhere, where I am paid]. Now I 
inform you who was taken to the army. [Enumeration.] 


109 December 3, 1901 

I, your sister, dear brother Jan, thank you heartily for your gift 
and for your noble heart. You sent me a token which, keeping it 
with care, I can have for my whole life. But, dear brother, Alek- 
sander [younger brother] when he learned, that there was nothing for 
him, began to cry. He was grieved, that Michalek promised him a 
watch and sent him none. 

I inform you, dear Janek, that I was with a procession in Plonne 
at a parish festival. The festival was very beautiful. I was at 
confession. When the priest began to preach people wept as if they 

were going to death * Now I inform you about Michal that 

he remained in Dlugie [as the Count P.'s groom] for a year more. 
Michal was here on the day when I wrote you this letter, and mother 
wept that while Michal sometimes comes, and will be here at Christ- 
mas, you cannot [Christmas wishes.] Amen. 


1 The money earned at hired work, as additional income, has always some 
particular destination. See Introduction: "Economic Attitudes." 

1 The children are taken very early to the church; it depends only upon their 
having holiday-clothes. The powerful influence of church-ceremonies upon the 
peasant begins thus in childhood. And the child is not excluded from any mani- 
festation of religious life, except sacraments; there is a gradually growing under- 
standing of the ceremonies, but no particular initiation. The only process which 
has some character of initiation is the preparation for the first communion, but, as 
the child has taken a part in the religious life of the community before this, the 
first communion has not the same importance for the peasant children as for the 
children of intelligent classes, who, even if admitted to ceremonies, are not initiated 
into the personal religious life of grown-up people. Here, as well as in other 
spheres of social life, the peasant child shares much earlier the interests of the 
community than a child of a higher class. 


HO May 25, 1902 

Now I, Franciszka, your sister, speak to you I inform you 

that I send you a small cross through [our cousin], for you wrote, dear 
brother, that I would be the first [to send you a token]. I should be 
glad to give you something more, with my whole heart, but I have 
nothing except this divine sign. May it help you in everything. 
I have a small bottle of honey but our cousin did not wish to take it. 
.... Now I inform you about Aleksander's stock, for he has no 
time to write. He has 3 rabbits and 4 pigeons. [Greetings and 


DEAR BROTHER [JAN]: You say that I don't write well; but it 
only seems to you so. I write characterfully. But you, dear brother, 
try also to write better. I remain with respect. 


Appreciate my writing! 

Dear brother Michal, I, your sister, inform you that Stefka 
Jablonianka gave me no peace, but asked always for your address, and 
I had to give it to her. She always says that she will be my sister- 
in-law, but God forbid! 

If I wrote anything bad[ly] pardon me. 


112 September 24, 1904 

.... Now I inform you, dear brother, that in our country fires 
continually break out. Not long ago Strzygi was on fire; half the 
village was burned. In Gunsk the whole village and the chapel are 
burned; only 5 houses are left. In Bozomin, a few days ago the 
whole courtyard [all the farm-buildings] burned down, and there is no 

village where something has not been burned And I inform 

you, dear brother, about the air. It is very dry, and our parents 
they don't remember such a year in their whole life 

You asked me, dear brother, about Frania's [Smentkowska] 
journey. We sent you a letter, but evidently you did not receive it. 

.... Her health was good She was sent to Aleksandrowo, 

so before she got to the commune it cost her 14 roubles [bribing Rus- 
sian police, for she had no passport] When she came, we did 


not know what to give her and where to seat her [we were so glad and 
honored her so]. But still we cannot forget the other one [the one 
killed, whose place this cousin came to fill]. 

Now, dear brothers, I thank you kindly and heartily for your gift. 
I have nothing to send you, except these words: "God reward." I 
shall be thankful to you during my whole life. I will pray God and 
God's Mother to give you happiness and blessing and that we may see 
one another, if not here, then in heaven 

Now, dear brothers, I inform you about Aleksander. When I 
read him this letter of yours, he said so: "Let them not jest about 
me, I will write them a letter yet. But I don't mind it at all, and 
may they only come. I will give them a dinner of my pigeons and a 
supper of my rabbits, buy a keg of beer for them, and bake wheat- 
bread." .... 


113 May 17, 1904 

.... Now I, your sister, write to you, dear Michalek, a few 
words. I inform you that the strawberries passed the winter well. 
I weeded them and I hope that they will bring fruit. If our Lord God 

grants you life and health, you will also try them Before the 

house I made small round flower-beds and sowed the flower-seeds 

which you brought me from Dlugie Only I need a fence, for 

the poultry spoil my work. But our parents say that before this we 
shall build a new barn, for the old one wants to fall down. So this 
year we shall bring material, and next year we shall build. Then, if 
some money is left, we shall make the hedge. Now I inform you that 
in Dlugie [where M. was a groom] they are already selling the small 
things, and the Count will go away in July. Mr. Bozewski's brother 

will live there 


114 January 18, 1905 

.... DEAR BROTHER: .... We received two letters from you, 
which found us in good health .... but we could not understand 
much of them, for they were written upon such dark paper that it was 
difficult for me to see what was written. And as to what you wrote 
in your first letter, that mother should inform you about her parents 
and family, mother tells you, don't turn her head [worry her] for the 


mayor is not in the village, and mother walked enough when you were 
in the army. Now she hardly walks about the house. 

Now I inform you, dear brother, that I write this letter myself, 
from myself, even our parents don't know about it. Father told me 
not to write, for Michal Zieleniak went to America and took the 

address of Michalek. He will inform you about everything I 

and brother sent you small gifts, brother 10 cigarettes, 5 for each of 
you, and I a handkerchief for each of you. You won't be perhaps 

satisfied with this token, but I can send you nothing more 

In our village nobody is dead and nobody married, for all went to 
the army. 

Pardon me for sending you such a letter [without stamp], but I 

have no money at all 


On the same day when I wrote this letter, the priest went through 
our village on a visitation [kolenda], 1 

__ w _, __, ..,__ 

.... Now I, your sister, thank you heartily for your gift, dear 

brother Dear brother and sister-in-law, I would gladly go 

to you in a single hour [at once], but when I say to mother that I will 
go, mother weeps directly, that she bred us up and now, when she is 
old, we all want to leave her. And I could not earn for my living in 
that country, for now, although I have much work and must sit the 

whole day, hi the evening I get scarcely 30 copecks 


Il6 January 24, 1907 

DEAR BROTHER [JAN] : . . . . Pardon me for not having answered 
at once, but I was in a hurry with wedding-dresses for Stanislawa 

Czechoska .... and then I had to be at the wedding Here, 

thanks to God, is no news except weddings. On one Sunday there 

were 13 banns in our parish a I was asked to every wedding 

but I was only at that of Czechoska, for if I went everywhere, I 

1 Kolenda: (i) Christmas wish, song, gift; many Christmas songs have this 
word as refrain; (2) visitation of the priest after Christmas (originally probably 
during or before Christmas), during which the priest inspects the parish, examines 
the parishioners on religious matters, and gets gifts from them. 

2 There were no weddings at all the preceding year. Cf. No. 86, note. 


should have no money left for clothes, for now at weddings everybody 
pays largely [to the bride's collection]. I have indeed work enough, 
but in the country the prices of living are very low, so that my work 
is very ill paid. Dear brother Michal, your betrothed pleases me 
very much, but I should like to be at your wedding. Dear brother, 
if I see that it is not worth working here and if Aleksander gets 
married, so that mother has help, I would go to you, but I don't 

know when 


117 April 25, 1909 

DEAR BROTHER: You write me not to marry until Michalek 
comes here with his fiddle. But so it could easily happen that I 
should remain an old girl. But never mind, if at least one of you were 
with me. As it is, I live as in a prison. I must weep almost every 
day. If it lasts longer, I shall consume myself with grief, so I think. 
I have nobody even to speak with. Our parents are old and go to 
sleep early, and I think often that my head will burst, I must weep 
so, and I long for you, for I am alone like an orphan. If I did not 
pity our parents, I should go at once to you, for with this needle I can 
earn little, and money is needed for everything. Now I won't even 
sew, for there will be work enough at the farm. But is it possible to 
leave our parents to the mercy of fortune, while they have raised us ? 
Well, I will bear it as I can and pray to God that he will bring here at 
least one of you, for I long terribly. Goodbye, and don't be angry 
with me for writing this, for I have nobody to whom I can complain. 

Your sister, 


118 February 28, 1910 

Now, dear brothers, I also pen a few words to you I 

intended to marry, but you write that it would be better if Alos 
remained on the farm, so I shall probably come now .... to you, 
for I won't marry a man who has to pass from one manor to another 
[as manor-servant]. Even if he were a craftsman, 1 and if he wanted to 

1 Marrying a manor-servant would be a step downward for a farmer's daughter. 
But the wandering life of the servant, not his dependence, is put forward by the 
girl in a contemptuous way. And it is not an economic matter, for a craftsman in a 
manor (blacksmith or carpenter) usually lives better than a small farmer. Two 


settle upon a good farm, at least 2,000 are needed. But, as I wrote 
you, there is not so much money now; our parents have only enough 
for their expenses. So perhaps when brother Alos conies back, 
with God's help, he will pay us what will be the suitable part to every- 
body. If he gets more dowry with his wife, he will be able to pay 
more to us. 1 Meanwhile I shall probably leave our parents as you 
did 2 and will go to earn a little for myself, for here I have a bad 
income, for when I am at home I must always do something else. 
Moreover, mother complains often now, for she is no longer young, so 
I must busy myself with the household. And father also would not 
like to pay me anything, for he pays the servant, while I always need 
a little money besides everything else. Now, if you have no money 
you cannot show yourself anywhere, particularly a young person. 
Lastly I am always so alone, you are all scattered about the world, 
so it is very sad for me. Therefore I must find some other way. . . . 


1 19 August 2, 1910 

DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER-IN-LAW: I beg you also, be so kind 
and visit us. Perhaps you will come just for my wedding. You 
would cause me a great joy, for to have 3 brothers and to have none 
at the wedding, this is something very painful. My wedding was 
to be in August, but the father of my betrothed died, so our affairs 
got crossed, but we hope that our intentions will be fulfilled and the 
wedding will be in autumn. I must inform you who is my future 
husband. He is the miller from Trabin, schoolmate of Michalek. 
Michalek knows him for he went to school with him. I invite him, 

factors determine this appreciation of the stable life of a farmer as against the 
wandering life of a servant: (i) The social factor; the fanner is a member of a 
community, with a determined social standing; and (2) the love of land and farm- 

1 For this reason the brothers want Aleksander to take the farm. Frania's 
husband, whoever he may be, will have no cash ready to pay her brothers off, for 
cash is first of all reserved for girls as dowry, while Aleksander will get a dowry in 
cash and will be able to pay. Of course the family of Frania's future husband may 
mortgage its farm and give him the necessary cash; but we know the peasant's hate 
of debts. 

2 There is bitterness in this phrase and in the whole letter, although no 
reproaches are made. The letter contrasts with the preceding one (No. 117), 
which is only sorrowful. 


i.e., Michalak, also heartily, for he promised me to play at my wedding- 
festival, so I remind him and I invite you all together to my wedding- 


120 September 12, 1910 

.... DEAR BROTHER [MICHAL]: You wrote that I could wait 
still a year with my wedding. Evidently, as to my years it would not 
be anything important, but my betrothed is almost obliged to marry, 
for his mother cannot work heavily any more, and his sister does not 
want to, but intends to go away as an apprentice. And then, to say 
the truth, he has been calling upon us for 3 years; it is long enough. 
I inform you that the first banns were on September n, but the 
wedding won't be at once, perhaps not until middle October, for we 
are waiting for Alos. He wrote that he would come. If they don't 
set him free once and forever, he would come at least for a leave. 
.... As to the wedding, it will probably be sad, without music, for 
even if it were with music it would be also sad for us, because he has 
no father. I probably shan't have any brother, so indeed it will be 
painful and sad. But, dear brothers and dear sister-in-law, I invite 
you to my wedding. If you cannot be there personally, then be at 
least with thought and spirit, for I will always think that I have dear 
brothers and a dear sister-in-law, but there somewhere, far away in the 
world. But nothing can be done. Such is the will of God. I will 
inform you later when my marriage will be with certainty, for now I 

don't know at all 


121 November 4, 1910 

DEAR BROTHERS: We thank you for the wishes which you sent, 

for we received them the day before our wedding Now we 

inform you about our wedding. We amused ourselves well enough, 
only it was painful for us that we could not rejoice together with you. 
Then we inform you that the wedding was with music, as you wished 
it. The marriage-ceremony was performed in the evening after the 
Rosary, and afterward the priest-vicar went ahead in order to receive 
us with bread and salt, after the old habit, and gave us at the same 
time his blessing. Our professor [village-teacher] Paprocki came also 
to our wedding and received us, together with the priest-vicar, with 


bread and salt J And our professor wished us progeny, and 

as a token brought before us a child, enveloped with big kerchiefs, 
upon his arm, and the child was very small, for it has finished 7 years 
already! This was a scene! If you had been there you would have 

Then we inform you that the festival lasted for a night and a day, 
without any collection. 2 After the wedding we went to the photog- 
rapher in order to send you the token in remembrance, which we senc 

you now, wishing you every good. 

Yours, loving, 


122 March 27, 1911 

.... DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTER-IN-LAW: .... We received 

your letter .... and your [wedding] gift We thank you 

heartily for this money, dear brothers and sister-in-law We 

cannot prove to you our gratitude even now for your good heart, 
except by thanking you once more. And we inform you at the same 
time that we gave [money] for a holy mass, at which we will beg God 
to reward you a hundred fold. 

[Weather; crops.] There is nothing interesting hi our country. 
There are rumors again that there is to be war. May God the 
Merciful give peace, for it would be the worst misery to our Alos. 
He rejoices that he has only 7 months more to serve. If there were 
only peace, we should live perhaps till he comes. We inform you 
also about the trouble which we have with our farm. We have 8 
morgs of land and a windmill. We keep some stock, for the income 
from the mill is not large, because steam mills have been constructed 
in the country and these took much bread away from the millers. As 
to the buildings, we have a new barn, a stable which is not bad; only 
the dwelling-house is not very good old fashioned. Moreover, we 
have 250 roubles of debt which we took over from his parents when 
they willed us the farm. But if only our Lord God grants us health 
and life, in a few years we hope to make everything all right, wi 

1 This, as well as the whole description, shows that the wedding was first rate 
from the peasant point of view. Evidently both bride and bridegroom had a high 
standing in the community. 

2 This is not in accordance with the tradition and shows a somewhat advanced 
attitude. A collection would probably have been felt as a humiliation, but this 
proves that the real meaning of communal solidarity is already obliterated. 


God's help. Our life flows pleasantly, for we love and respect each 
other, so whatever happens, grief or joy, we share it together in 


[Greetings and wishes.] 


123 July 7, 1913 

DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER [-IN-LAW] : . . . . We did not answer 
you at once for we had some trouble with our farming. It was going 
pretty well, we had paid a part of our debt back, and then suddenly 
in autumn a fine colt died, and then in May a horse died, and this 
always befalls the best ones. But what can we do ? It won't come 
back. When our Lord God sends a misfortune the man can do 
nothing. If only God grants us health and life, we shall manage in 
some way. Our children, up to the present, get on well enough. 
Zygmunt already explains himself well enough. They are our whole 
joy. [Weather and crops; greetings and wishes.] 

A[DAM] and F[RANIA] B. 

124 TROMBIN, November 4, 1913 

DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER [-IN-LAW]: .... We had this year 
some misfortune with the horses, as I wrote you already, and then the 
wings of our windmill fell down. We both had trouble enough, but 
nothing could be done. We have talked with each other, that our 
Lord God is trying us, and we commended everything to His will. 
This alone makes our life sweeter, that we live hi good harmony and 
respect each other, 1 and that up to the present our Lord God has kept 
our children well. They are lively and grow well. Little Walcia 
already stands alone. If we could get some more money, we would 
send you their photograph. 

As to the windmill, probably it won't be worth repairing any more 
for now steam mills are built in the towns and everybody prefers to 
take [the grain] there, for they have it at once and more finely ground. 
Now we inform you that we have a co-operative milkshop in our 

1 Again the attitude of "respect" as a basis of conjugal life. And it is sig- 
nificant that hi the first letter "love" is mentioned, while hi the second, two years 
later, there is no such mention. It does not mean that the relation has grown, 
colder, only that the first sexual novelty has disappeared and the sexual relation is 
subordinated to the respect norm. 


village. Adam was even elected treasurer, to pay for the milk. 
[Weather.] We won't inform you about political questions, for you 
know more there from your papers than we know from ours. Now I 
beg you in my own name, dear brother and sister, remember our 
parents, and particularly mother. Write often and comfort her as 
you can, for mother despairs much about you. 1 When she comes to 
me, she only pets Zygmus and Walcia a little and leaves at once, and 
there at home she weeps again and there is nobody who knows how 

to comfort her, for Alos is somewhat indifferent 


If anything is bad[ly written] forgive me, for now I don't write 
often, so it does not go well. 

125 DLUGIE, April 27, 1902 

.... DEAR BROTHER: I received your letter I had at 

the moment urgent work which hindered me from reading it. When- 
ever I took it in my hand and began to read, I was called away. I 1 
looked always for the words "Prepare to come to America," or, "The 
ship- ticket is on the way," but I read instead that you were sick. 
When I read this I did not wish to read any further, for my companion 
is going now, in April, and I thought that I would go with him, but 
I did not succeed. I don't know whether my wish is right or wrong. 

Now, dear brother, I inform you that in the holidays I was at 
home with our parents. I went there on the last Sunday [before 
Easter]. I arrived just after the priest [who consecrated the Easter- 
food] left. They have their [new] house hi order; the priest conse- 
crated it, together with the &w$cone [Easter-food] and my favorite 
sausage, which I settled [ate] in 2 days. But I was not very glad 
[I did not amuse myself well], for both holidays were cold and rainy. 
They remembered you continually, particularly mother. I told them 
always that I would go to America after the holidays, that I had 
received a letter [from you] and a ship-ticket. Only when I was about 

to leave, I told the truth Now inform me, where do you like 

the most [to live] among all the places you have been, in our country 

and abroad I don't know whether anybody got married in 

Gulbiny ; I know only that the girl who expected you in vain to marry 

1 The mother has lost her practical interest in life since the farm was given to 
Aleksander. From this probably, more than from Aleksander's coldness, comes 
the growing longing for her other boys. 


her [or "whom you expected in vain to marry"] took some clay-dabber 


126 May 10, 1902 

.... DEAR BROTHER: .... I wish you good health and 
happiness, that you may as soon as possible get out of this trouble, in 
which you cannot even "trinkejn glass Bir." .... As to my watch, 
I have it indeed, but I am not much pleased with it, for it has been 
already treated by a doctor, and now it wants to stop again, .... 
but when I frighten it perhaps it will know better. 

Now I inform you, dear brother, about our spring in our country. 
Up to the present it has been bad, for it even snows sometimes, and 
at night it is impossible to go anywhere for well, for laughing [love- 
making], for it is so cold that the potatoes in hot-beds are frozen. 
Now I inform you about our village Dlugie. It is so spoiled that 
nothing can be done to improve it not the village itself, but the people 
in the village. First, card-playing without any consideration. 
People come from other villages to ours [to play]. At the same time 
drinking, fighting almost every boy with a stick in his hand, a knife 
in his pocket and a revolver in his bosom. [It assumes] such propor- 
tions that a man who returned from America and brought with him 
more than 400 roubles was killed and the money taken. I don't 
suspect exactly that these robbers were from Dlugie, but they were 
from the neighborhood, at any rate. It is not yet discovered [who 
did it]. People began to talk about one man, that he was the one, but 
he went and hanged himself. 1 [Wishes and greetings.] 

Only don't do as Antoni did [don't marry] until I see you 

Everybody dissuades me from going to America [saying] that I shall 
have to work hard and still to die from hunger, and that I should be 
killed, for there are so many robbers , , ~ 


1 Suspicion, just or unjust, is the most usual cause of peasant suicide. (Cf. 
Introduction: "Social Environment.") The main factor here is the fear of the 
dishonor of condemnation, as a man who has been condemned, or even tried, for a 
criminal offense loses once and forever all social standing. He can never try to 
exert any influence in his community, for he is always reminded of his condemna- 
tion, and it is difficult for him to settle in any other community without his past 
becoming known; the system of "legitimation papers" prevents it. The peasant's 
suicide seems to indicate that social opinion can become the most powerful element 
in the peasant farmer-village life. 


127 August i, 1902 

.... DEAR BROTHER: .... I was rejoiced that you were in 
good health, until I read that you had no work, and this grieved me. 
But I hope in God that presently you will get better. I am also very 
sad that I shan't see you, dear brother, and also that I must now sit at 
home. Therefore I asked father to give me a few roubles in order to 
go to Warsaw, but father said that he wanted to ask you to lend him 
50 roubles, and father and mother say that I could go to Warsaw, that 
they prefer it to my going to America, for it would not pay to go 
before the military service. But what can I do in my misery ? If you 
could, dear brother (I don't dare to beg you, for you complain that 
you have no work, but I dare only to say, if you could), help me I will 
give it back to you with thanks, for I hope in God and God's Mother 
that I shan't always be so badly off. And I add, dear and beloved 
brother, that I should gladly remain at home, but father always says 
that I ought to earn for myself, that he has already fed me long 
enough. 1 In some respects he is right, but if I get into the world, I 
shall perhaps find some way if our Lord God grants me health. I 
have a few grosz, but I cannot go as I am. I must buy clothes and 
shirts, or stuff for shirts and have them sewed. There are also many 
other trifles, and some sort of a valise. Now, dear brother, don't 
reject my prayer, and don't delay, if you only can. You know, when 
you needed [money] one time or another, although I could give you 
nothing 2 yet if I could, I would have shared with you everything, 
even the blood from my finger. 3 And so, dear brother, when we see 
each other, I will give you everything back with thanks 

Now I have nothing more to write, only I beg you once more, be 
so kind and don't wait for anything, only help me. If you cannot, as 
I wrote you [lend money], to the parents, then help me at least with 
a few roubles. I don't require you to send me your money and to 

1 The idea that every member of the family who is not absolutely indispensable 
at home ought to earn his living outside by hired work is relatively new. Of 
course, when the farm is insufficient to feed the whole family additional work of its 
members is a necessity; but here this is not the case. It is the substitution of 
economic advance for mere living as an aim, which leads to the desire to give the 
most productive use to the work of each member of the family, in the interest of 
the family as a whole. 

3 Alludes to the fact that he tried to persuade his parents to send money to 
his brother when the latter was hi the army. 

* Half proverbial, probably originating in the form of blood brotherhood. 


live there in misery yourself, for I am not dying with hunger, but I 
have no luxury either. For you know, dear brother, that I like to 
work, but only if I know what I am working for. But I cannot dress 
myself any more now for 30 roubles [a year] 

Pardon me, dear brother, for having written so badly, but I wrote 
and thought about something else. [Wishes.] And now I bow low 
to my beloved Frania [probably cousin, who went recently to America]. 
Please beg her, if you see her, to pardon me what I said to her on her 
departure, and to write me something 

I embrace you and kiss you kindly and heartily, as well and per- 
haps even better than my sweetheart. 


128 February 21, 1903 

.... DEAR BROTHER: .... I have waited for your letter for 

days, and weeks, and months I don't know what is going on 

with you, whether you are ill, or whether you got so proud after your 
marriage. I make diff erent suppositions. Forgive me my joke, dear 
brother [about the marriage; Jan was ultimately refused by the girl], 
for perhaps my Zosia S. will also despise [reject] me. I don't mention 
her name, for she is in America, and you are still a bachelor, so you 
would be ready perhaps to take her for yourself 

Now I inform you, dear brother, that my companions and mates 
leave me and go to America, and I should also prefer to work if I 
could only follow them. Those who went write well enough. They 
have no hard work, and even if it were hard, I ought to be able 
to hold out as others do, for I shall soon be twenty. I should be glad 
to earn a little before the military service, or if not, then at least to 
look a little about the world, for if I keep this groom-work longer in 

my hands it will go out by the top of my head [upset me] 

Father allows me to go. Mother says it would be better if I did not 
go, but if you send me a ship-ticket and if I beg her, she will allow me 
to go 


129 March 6, 1906 

And now I beg you, dear brothers, help me in some way to get 
there to you, for here I work at home and as a hired laborer, and even 


so I hardly earn enough for my clothes. 1 Moreover, all my compan- 
ions are going, so I want also to visit America. Dear brothers, send 
me money or a ship-ticket. When I come there, I will work it back 

with thanks 


130 November 15, 1908 

Now I, dear brothers, bid you farewell [on going to the army] and 
greet you kindly and heartily, for I don't know whether our Lord God 
will allow us to see one another any more. 2 I beg you, don't forget 
about our parents and about me, for you know that there is hardly a 
day when our mother does not shed tears, either about me, what will 
happen to me, or about you, whether you are healthy and alive, and 

there will be nobody to comfort our mother 


131 TOWN KANSK [SIBERIA], May 17, 1909 

.... DEAR BROTHERS: .... I learned from your letter that 
you sent me 20 roubles. This rejoiced me, for they will be very useful 
to me. I don't wait with answering until they come, but I answer you 
at once and thank you, dear brothers and sister-in-law. Perhaps our 
Lord God will allow me to show you my gratitude 

Now I inform you .... about my service. On May 21, our 
oath will be taken .... and we hope that it will be somewhat 

1 The dissatisfaction with working on his parents' account is a typical sign o^ 
the beginning disintegration of the family as a unit. Cf. letters of Stanislaw in the 
Markiewicz series. 

2 We find this farewell also in other letters of peasants going to serve in the 
Russian army. The separation is felt as more absolute than any other, certainly 
not only on account of any possible war (no war was expected in 1908) and not only 
on account of the length of the separation, or of the distance, since the emigration 
to America goes on without such tragic farewells. It seems to be a social custom ( 
and its source is easily traced back to that period in the middle of the nineteenth 
century, where a peasant taken to the army was to serve seven to fifteen years or 
more (because every disciplinary punishment brought a prolongation of the term), 
when communication by letters was above the means of a soldier, who, moreover, 
usually did not know how to write, and when the discipline of the Russian army was 
the most severe and unreasonable possible. At that time going to the army meant 
often really a separation for life even if there was no war, and the fact had still 
more meaning because of its relative rareness, as the number of recruits which a 
community was to furnish was much smaller than now. 


better, at least for our legs, for now there is no day without our 
running like wet dogs. .... Now I inform you about the life of the 
people here, how they live and with what they occupy themselves here 
in this Siberia. In villages they occupy themselves mainly with 
agriculture, for there is no lack of land, but they do badly in it, for 
they are lazy. On Good Friday we went to the town; there they 
occupy themselves mainly with trade, and there are many who only 
loaf about and look out whom they can rob, and get drunk. The soil 
in this country is fertile and everything would grow, but the winter 
lasts too long and not everything can ripen. There are no fruit trees 
at all, the fruits are brought from other countries. Now I inform you 
that in our country beyond Plock the water [Vistula] did much dam- 
age, submerged many villages, tore away the railway-bridge in Modlin, 
and many people remained without living [work] and without a bit 

of bread Dear brother, inform Janek Sz., if he does not long 

for our country, let him remain in America, for if he gets here [to the 

army] he will remember it, but it will be too late 


132 KANSK, September 6, 1909 

.... DEAR BROTHERS: .... I was very sad, for I learned 
that you received none of my letters. I wrote you two and I paid 
for both, and I don't know whether they did not reach you because 
they were paid or because of something else. I send you the third 
unpaid, perhaps this one will reach you sooner I 

I was very grieved on learning that Michalek won't return home 
any more. I did not expect it at all. I thought that when our Lord 
God grants me to finish my service and to go back home, he would 
come at least on a visit and we should rejoice all together under the 
native roof. For now we are scattered about the world, and whenever 
I remember it, I can hardly refrain from weeping. Our father must 
work alone, and I am living here worse than a beast. It will be soon 
a year since I have seen a church or a priest. 2 And all the people live 

'The argument seems strange, but it corresponds with the facts. The 
Russian post is very negligent, and many ordinary letters are lost, but for a letter 
without a stamp the receiver has to pay double, and on this account there are some 
formalities connected with its forwarding and delivery. 

1 Example of the importance of religion as the main idealistic factor in peasant 
life, even for a young boy, who is usually the least religious person in a peasant 


here in the same way. In the evening all the shutters are closed, and 
if anybody shows himself on the street he won't return home alive; 
he will be either shot or butchered with knives. Many have been 
killed so. Once we stood on guard near the prison and we were 
attacked by day. They wanted to set the convicts free, but they did 
not succeed. We killed one with a bayonet, and the other fled. . . , 

Now I inform you that the harvest is finished here only now, 
and the air is cold already. And I beg you, advise me, whether I may 
go on leave, for they wrote to me twice already from home to come; 
but it would cost very much, 30 roubles for the journey alone, without 
the living. And they would give me leave for 3 months 


133 SIBERIA, March 28, 1910 

DEAR BROTHERS: .... On Easter-Sunday after the evening 
roll-call I had already gone to sleep when a letter from home was 
brought to me. When I read it, I learned first that father had already 
sent to the governor the decision of the commune that you [Michal] 
had not been [in the country] for so long a time, dear brother, and in 3 

weeks the decision will be in the office of the military chief So 

perhaps our Lord God will grant us to see one another soon under the 
native roof. 1 If you knew, dear brothers, how sad my holidays were 

until I got the letter, you would not believe me Now, dear 

brothers, I learned .... that Janek intends to go [home] to the 
wedding [of Frania]. Perhaps our Lord God will grant me to be 
there also, for our sister will certainly marry Adam Brz. from Trombin, 
who. went with us to school. I think that Michalek knows him; he 
is the son of the miller. On New Year there was also a man from 
Obory, but she did not want him, although he is rich; he has more 
than 40 morgs of land. She did not want him, for it is too far away 

from home, and he is as old as the Bible As to the farm, I 

think that you advised father well [to give it to me], for Michalek 
won't come back any more and won't wish to work in the earth, while 
I have worked from my young years, so I am very accustomed to the 
earth and I know how to manage it. Just for that I am so awfully 

1 That is, Aleksander will be released from the army as the sole support of his 



homesick in the army, for I am away from the soil, I cannot work in it. 
[Moving-pictures shown the regiment.] 

Now, dear brothers, you wrote that you can help me, so I beg you, 
when you receive this letter, send me a few roubles. Perhaps they 
will be useful for my journey, or if not, then in the autumn I will go 

on leave I beg you, dear brothers, don't forget me .... 

particularly you, dear Janek, who have served. You know how 
bad it smells here; particularly during their Lent one almost 


[Letter of March 17, 1911 shows that the plan to have him released 
from the army did not succeed. Letter of January, 1912, announces 
arrival home.] 

134 GULBINY, February 17, 1912 

.... DEAR BROTHER: First I greet you, and also your wife, and 
I inform you that I got free from this slavery and came to my dear 
parents. What was my joy, dear brother, I won't describe it to you, 
for I know that you know it well, because you have also eaten of this 
Moscovite bread and you know how good it is. Only I inform you 
that I am treated without end, everybody invites me, and Frania does 
not want to let me go from her house, she wants me to remain there 
day and night and to relate about this Siberia, while I need to go 
somewhere farther in order to find some girl for myself. You all, dear 
brothers, are married, only I am still alone. Perhaps you have there 
in America some pretty and rich girl, so when you come here, bring 
her to me, for here it is difficult to find such. All the prettiest girls 
are gone to America. So I beg you, dear brother, don't forget this. 
[The request is half a jest.] 

Now I inform you what is the news here. As to the old people 
about whom you wrote, only the old Jablonska from the end of the 
village is dead, and Uncle Sm. is lying very sick. For a whole year 
he has not been able to eat and to rise .... and we don't know, but 
probably he will soon end his life. And our Mr. Piwnicki [manor- 
owner] lives so that you would not know him and his estate. I was 
away for only 3 years and even so I could not recognize it. What a 
factory they built near the farm-yard! And the mill and that forge 


which stood near the mill have been pulled down, and they take clay 
from that spot. 1 [Weather.] 

Now I have nothing more of interest to write. If you can, 
inform me when you will come back and how much money you can 
bring with you, I shall perhaps find you somewhere a nice piece 

of land 

Your well-wishing brother, 

A. 0. 

135 July 12, 1912 

.... DEAR BROTHER : I will pen to you a few words, not much 
at present, for I am not yet married. As soon as I marry, I will write 
you more. Do you know, dear brother, that up to the present I have 
ridden in search of a girl, but now I must walk on foot, for I have 
already worn the horses out! After so many troubles I found two, 

one named Bronislawa C and the other also Bronislawa, but 

excuse me, for I forget her name. Probably one of these two will be 
mine .... and I hope that in my next letter I shall invite you to 

my wedding 

Your well-wishing brother, 


1 Rather an expression of commiseration (cf. corresponding letter of the 
parents) than of approval. The peasants are ready to appreciate any aesthetic 
improvement of the manor, as well as any progress in the purely agricultural line, 
but every industrial undertaking of the manor-owner, particularly the building of a 
factory, provokes a mixed feeling of satisfaction, because of the new opportunity of 
work, of admiration for the man's cleverness, and at the same tune a half aesthetic, 
half moral disapproval. The man is slightly despised because for the sake of a 
greater income he deprives himself of an aesthetic environment and from a tradi- 
tional country lord becomes an entrepreneur. The same feeling of commiseration 
accompanies any endeavor to diminish the household expenses, the number of 
servants, of carriage horses, etc., and in general any conversion of an aesthetic 
value into a productive value. The country lord, in the peasant's opinion, ought 
to live according to his social standing, to afford unproductive expenses, to main- 
tain the same standard of life as his father and grandfather before him. He may 
and should improve his farming but it is not suitable for him to be too eager to 
make money, "like a Jew." The argument is always "Is he not rich enough to 
afford this or that ? " This attitude is particularly marked when a new proprietor 
comes and begins to turn into money values which his predecessor used to maintain 
his standard of life. Such a man, if not known in the country, is immediately 
classed as a parvenu. 


136 September 24, 1912 

wrote that you had sent two letters and in one of these [our parents 
say] you asked for money. We were much grieved that you, having 
been so long in such a free and rich country, cannot get your living, 
though you are young, but write to us, old people [speaking in the 
name of the parents] for help. 

You know, dear brother, that I came just now from this prison 
[the army], I had even no time to look around well among the people, 
and I needed some clothes to be made for me in order not to be the 
last among other boys, and all this costs very much in our country. 
I even expected now a few grosz from you, as first help, and you 
write in quite another manner. We don't even know whether you 
are in earnest or making jokes at us. You know, dear brother, that 
you will receive everything, whatever your father destined for you, 
but not sooner than I get married. Perhaps I shall even come soon to 
you, for here it is difficult to get a rich and good wife, and instead of 
taking just anything I would rather come to you soon. That will be 
quieter [less distracting]. And if you wish you can come to our 
country and farm, for now I cannot act in a different way. I pity 
the old parents who will be left alone, but what can I do ? 

I inform you that on September 29, is the 5oth anniversary [of 

the priesthood] of the old priest F who was for so many years 

in Trombin and is now in Radomin. A company [procession] will go 
from here to Radomin. [Weather; farm- work.] The worst of it is 
the digging of the potatoes. It rains almost every day, the potatoes 
rot, and it is impossible to hire anybody. People want 50 and 60 
copecks a day, and afternoon luncheon, and a bottle [of beer] to be put 

out for them. This is too expensive for us. We must dig alone 

Your well-wishing brother, 


137 November 16, 1912 

"Praised be Jesus Christus!" 

DEAR BROTHER: We signed under, invite you, together with your 
wife, to our marriage-ceremony and to the wedding-feast which will 
be celebrated on Wednesday, November 27, 1912, in the house of 


Mr. Jur., in Bozomin. I shall describe to you our life more in detail 
in another letter. 1 

We remain, with respect for you, 


[Greetings from the parents and sister, and news about the 
weather on a separate sheet.] 

138 January 20, 1913 

.... DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER-IN-LAW: I pen to you a few 
words, together with my wife. First I inform you that health favors 
us up to the present. We live merrily on. Only now I have got full 
liberty after such a long waiting, and I don't think of moving any- 
where, if only our Lord God gives us health. When I learned from 
your letter [about some catastrophe] I felt cold, and my Julka red- 
dened and said that she won't let me go anywhere alone. As to the 
photograph, we beg very politely your pardon, but we shall send it to 
you perhaps in another letter, for now we have no opportunity at all. 
I beg you also, inform us about Michalek, for he wrote us that he 
would soon work together with his wife [after being married] and now 
he does not write. I don't know whether they live in health; per- 
haps the stork is near. Then hurrah! [Weather.] We bid you 
goodbye very kindly and heartily. My wife always tells me that she 
would be glad to see you and talk with you about America. Now be 
healthy, until the pleasure of seeing you. 


1 The invitation is evidently purely formal, as the letter will hardly arrive 
before the date of the wedding. Nevertheless not to invite would be considered a 
great offense. 


The writer is an average Galician peasant. The relation 
of the father and the son-in-law is more cordial than that 
of the father and son. The son-in-law has evidently at 
once taken the standpoint of familial solidarity with regard 
to his wife's family, while the son has become more or less 
estranged during his stay in America. 


139 [1913?] 

"Praised be Jesus Christus." 

about health, success, crops.] Now I inform you, dear son-in-law and 
dear daughter, that I tried to buy [land] from those old women in 
Czarnocin .... but they say that somebody .... gives them a 
whole 7,000 [crowns], but we don't know whether it is true or not, 
because now they have very beautiful crops and therefore they are so 
proud, and so we must wait what will be further. It pleases me well 
enough .... but it does not please your father. He says that it is 
possible to find something better to buy, that this is dear, and worth 

And now I inform you that a young man from America came here 
who says that Wojtek Wojtusiak broke an arm and Wojtek Lesny 
broke a leg. And here people say that it is true, and you don't 
write to us anything about it, whether it is true or not. So answer 
us. And people say that in America are wars, and you don't write 
us anything about it. And now I inform you that our lawsuit with 
Tomek is ended, and it resulted so that we have to divide the pine 
grove between ourselves, and the land will be mine. We lost much 
[on the lawsuit], but even so it was worth it, for the land alone is 
worth something, because now land is very dear there. They ask 
1,000 for a morg. And I write some words. How does Jozek 
Patoniec behave there ? Answer me about him. 


And now I shall write you some words, sincerest truth. Believe 
me, what I shall write is the very truth, because your mother herself 
ordered me to write a few words about your father, how he is farming 
here. It is such a father. When he began to call upon us and to ask 
us for a loan of some money, in order to buy a calf, we lent him 
25 gulden. What did he do ? When he seized this money he bought 
a pig for it. Because when he seized it he went at once with it to 
Hejmejka, and drank so long until he spent it all, and it did not even 
suffice. And what did he do when he lacked more money? He 
went home, took a cart and a mare and drove to [ ? ] and there sold 
everything to Placiak, Josek and Szymczyk, saying that he would 
spend everything in drinking. Your mother told me to describe all 
this to you, and she asks you not to dare to send any money, none of 

you, for this liquor 


140 March 10, 1914 

I sit down to the table, I take the pen and I greet you, dear son-in- 
law, and you, my daughter. [Generalities about health and success: 
letters received and sent.] Probably my letter did not reach you, 
since you say that I don't know how to write your address; but I 
write as I know, and so don't be contrary to me [angry]. And now I 
write you that we have no more snow, but rain pours down and it is 
wet and there is no spring yet. And now you write us that we did 
not send you any Christmas token. But how should we have sent 
you any since you never once wrote to us about it. And now you 
ask whether my leg is healed. It is healed, thanks to God, but I 
cannot walk yet in a small shoe, because it gnaws me. And now you 
ask about those planks whether I hid them. Well, I hid them in the 
barn, and I had trouble enough with them, because your father wanted 
to take them and to drive them to Hejmejka because here [he thinks] 
they are useless, and your father wants money for liquor, because 
vodka got dearer, 7 szostkas [i crown 40 heller] for a liter. I was 
obliged to insure my buildings, because your father said that he 
would burn us. And now I wrote you in that other letter about this 
money. The Bodziunys and Jasiek paid it back long ago, and now 
what shall I do with it? Whether I have to put it into a savings- 
bank, or to lend it to anybody in the village, or to let it remain at 
home ? Answer me at once, how I should do with it. And now you 


write me, dear daughter, about our son Wojtek. Don't be anxious 
about him, what he is doing there, let him do what he will. As he 
makes his bed, so he will sleep. We got rich enough through him, 
with those wages of his which he sent us! And now here people ask 
us always whether Wojciech Wojtusiak married Kaska, your sister, 

so write us about it 


141 [April, 1914?] 

[DEAR SON WOJTEK]: .... And now you say that we don't 
write to you and that we are angry with you. But we are not angry, 
it is you who are angry with us, for you don't remember us, you have 
forgotten that you have here parents and a brother and sisters. You 
say so [reproach us], that we wrote you to work and to send money. 
So I will tell you this: "As you make your bed, so you will sleep." 
Now you have a better reason [wisdom] already than you had formerly, 
[irony] for you said formerly that you had no reason, and now you 
ask us to give you this fortune, which is first God's, then ours. All 
this may be. But now we must speak, how to do it. First suppose, 
that I give you it. But you know that you have here a brother 
Jasiek and sisters. Perhaps you have forgotten them, so I shall 
remind you who they are. The name of one is Maryna, of the other 
Kundzia, of the third Ludwisia. And it is thus here [in our village]. 
Jozek Blaszczyk got married .... so his father willed him this his 
farm. But he has another son, and for this one he designated 5 
hundred-notes to be paid [by the older] from these three quarters 
[morgs ?] and this hut. The older said that it was too much, but the 
younger said thus: "If you think it is too much, then [give me the 
farm and] I will give you 8 hundred-notes." 1 

And now people say here that you want to marry. But how 
about the call [to military service] ? A constable went here about 
[the village] and wrote down all of you who went to America without 
having been at the call. They say that you will be driven home as 
prisoners [from the frontier]. And now all this is still nothing. But 
if you marry, where will you put this wife, in her hat ? Since here 
women and girls walk in homespun and kerchiefs [szmata] and eat 

1 This means that the son cannot get the farm without having money to pay 
his brother and sisters because land is expensive and it is no longer the custom to 
favor too much the son who takes the land. 


gruel and potatoes and bread. And it is necessary to work, while 
your lady won't work, for where will she put her umbrella ? But all 
this is still nothing. But how much money have you sent to us? 
We are really ashamed, people laugh at us so. The wise man promises, 
the stupid man rejoices. If I had nothing but this which you help 
me with, it would be enough, for I get on very nicely on the money 
which you have sent! So I thank you for it. And it will be also 
useful to you, when you want to buy farm-stock ! 

But enough of this. And now I shall write you, dear son, a few 
words. You went to America for money, tot you know that you will 
need it if I want to give you a lot of land. 

And now we greet you nicely 



The Markiewiczs are a family of peasant nobility living 
in the province of Warsaw, near the Vistula and on the 
border of the province of Plock, but not like the Wrob- 
lewskis in their ancient family nest. This part of the 
country has almost no industry, but the neighborhood in 
which the family lives is not isolated from cultural influence, 
as the town of Plock, lying across the river, is the seat of a 
rather strong intellectual movement. Life is much faster 
in their social environment than in that of the Wroblewskis, 
who come from the same class, and this may explain the 
difference of attitudes. Unlike Walery Wroblewski, the 
Markiewiczs are "climbers." The whole familial situation, 
the difference between the old and the young generation, the 
individual differences of character and aspirations are much 
better understood if this fundamental feature is kept in 
mind. We find analogous situations in other familial 
series, but nowhere so universally and fully presented in its 
most interesting stage, i.e., at the moment when the tend- 
ency to rise within their own class begins to change into a 
tendency to rise above their own class. The situation of the 
family Markiewicz is thus representative of the general 
situation of the middle and lower classes of Polish society. 
It is a family in which the characters of the old society, with 
its fixed classes of families, and the new society, with its 
fluid classes of individuals, are mixed together in various 
proportions. Their only peculiarity is that, thanks to 
their origin, the tendency to climb within their class can 
have much more important consequences than with the 
ordinary peasants and appears therefore as especially 
justified. For it happened frequently in the past that a 



branch of a family of peasant nobility, by a gradual advance 
in wealth and education, rose to the ranks of middle nobil- 
ity, and even two or three of the highest noble families 
are reputed to have grown in this way. Even now if the 
family Markiewicz as a whole made a fortune and acquired 
education, it would gradually identify itself with middle no- 
bility. But this climbing within the old familial hierarchy 
would take at least three generations, while climbing within 
the new individualistic hierarchy could be achieved in one 
generation and it is doubtful whether the aim of getting into 
the middle nobility is consciously realized by the family. 
We must remember that the isolation of the peasant nobility 
as a class is four centuries old and that the traditional social 
horizon of its members no longer reaches beyond their class. 
Thus the two older brothers, Jozef and Jan, are typical 
peasants whose sphere of interests is completely inclosed 
within the old social group. They do not tend to rise 
above their class and they do not understand the conscious 
or unconscious tendencies of their children in this direction. 
Each of them wants his family to occupy the highest possible 
place within the community his family as a whole, not 
one or another individual in particular, not even his own 
personality, which he does not dissociate from that of his 
family. All the efforts of Jozef and Jan are concentrated 
upon this aim. They both economize as much as possible, 
making little distinction between their own money and that 
of their children; they both buy land wherever there is any 
opportunity; they try to profit from every source of income; 
they neglect any showing-off except in the traditional lines, 
giving no money to dress their children, but spending large 
sums on wedding-festivals. They endow their children 
very well, but want them to make good matches. They 
give their children instruction, but only as far as instruction 
helps to attain a higher standing in the community itself, 


and provided it does not lead to ideas contrary to the tradi- 
tions. They do not understand at first how their sons in 
America can have any other aim than to gather as much 
money as possible in order to come back and buy good 
farms and marry rich peasant girls. When they begin to 
understand that their sons' sphere of interests has become 
different from their own, the discovery leads either to a 
tragic appeal or to a more or less complete estrangement 
between father and son. 

The two mothers, wives of Jozef and Jan, have no 
such determined tendency and seem in general to have 
no conscious and far-going life-plans. Their ideas turn 
generally in the traditional circle, but their familial atti- 
tude is not pronounced and their love for their children 
individually allows them to understand them and to sym- 
pathize better with their individual needs and their new 

Each of the children has a somewhat different attitude. 
In Jan's family the three sons, Michal, Wiktor, and Maks 
present the most perfect gradation from a typical peasant to 
a typical middle-class attitude. (The fourth son, Stanislaw, 
is not sufficiently characterized in his brothers' letters; he 
seems to be more or less like Wiktor.) Michal is nothing 
but a peasant, without even his father's tendency to advance. 
Perhaps he is too young. His whole sphere of interest is 
that of a farmer. He hates the army with a truly peasant 
hatred, and does not even try, as members of the lower- 
middle class usually do, to become a sergeant. He has so 
little ambition as to think about becoming an orderly. At 
the maneuvers he is interested only in Russian farming; 
cities have no interest for him. And his highest dream is 
to come back and to take his father's farm. He has particu- 
larly strong familial feelings, not only of love but also of 
solidarity, and few purely personal claims. 


Wiktor is also a peasant, but much less so than his 
father or his brother. The career which he desires lies in 
the line of peasant life in the sense that he intends to remain 
a farmer. But he has already certain points which dis- 
tinguish him from the peasant. These are (i) much 
stronger personal claims, which become a source of antago- 
nism between him and his father; (2) a tendency to general 
instruction, not limited to the necessary minimum; (3) a 
tendency to get into "better society," to boast about higher 
relationships (even if they be those with a Russian official, in 
spite of his hatred for the Russians), and to assume certain 
forms and manners of the better society. But this will cer- 
tainly be dropped when after his marriage he settles down 
upon a farm, and he will become a typical well-to-do farmer. 

Maks has little of the peasant even in the beginning of 
his career in America, and almost nothing after seven years 
spent in this country. He drops all the peasant ideals one 
after another agriculture, property, communal interests, 
familial solidarity (without losing attachment to individual 
members of the family) and while keeping the climbing 
tendencies of his father, develops them along a new line, in 
the typical middle-class career. 

Still more variety is shown among the children of Jozef. 
Two of them Alfons and Polcia have not the smallest 
interest in anything outside of the peasant life; on the 
contrary, they want to remain peasants in full consciousness 
of the fact. But since at the same time they show no 
climbing tendencies, it seems that the father's attitude 
toward them is rather contemptuous. The mother shares 
the contempt toward Alfons, while she rather favors Polcia, 
who helps her, although she is not proud of her. 

Stanislaw and Pecia show a mixture of the attitudes of 
the peasant and the lower-middle class, which results in 
rather negative features, as only the superficial characters 


of the lower-middle class have been assimilated, and many 
valuable peasant characters lost. Stanislaw is peculiarly 
undecided in his life-plans. He hesitates between marrying 
and remaining a peasant, and going to America. Finally 
he goes to America, but comes back after a year, and then 
regrets it. He has much vanity and very strong personal 
claims; a superficial tendency to instruction, which does 
not develop either into professional agricultural instruction, 
as in Alfons, or into professional instruction along the 
technical line, as in Maks, or even into a serious "sport," 
as in Waclaw. As to Pecia, she seems to have assimilated 
merely the external distinctions (dress and manners) of 
the lower-middle class; she is a climber, but without the 
strong character necessary to climb. She marries a man a 
little above the peasant level of general culture, but instead 
of pushing him in the line of a middle-class career, drops with 
him into the peasant life again, and has not even the qualities 
required of a farmer's wife. Her laziness and vanity make a 
peasant career impossible for her. 

Waclaw and Elzbieta are perhaps psychologically the 
most interesting types. Intellectually and morally they 
are completely outside of the peasant class. Their sphere 
of interests is totally different from that of their parents and 
environment and they take their new line of life very 
seriously, particularly instruction and with Waclaw 
social activity. But they have developed no new economic 
basis of life; they have not the energy or self -consciousness 
to begin a regular middle-class career. Waclaw ought to 
imitate Maks; Elzbieta ought to become a teacher or a 
business woman. But they do not do it, and thus arises an 
interior conflict which is perfectly typical at the present 
moment. They remain in the old class by their familial 
connections and economic interests, while intellectually and 
morally they have little in common with it. 


The letters of Michal show fully the peasant's attitude 
toward military service, particularly in the Russian army. 
This attitude is universal; we find it, a little less strong, in 
Aleksander Osinski's letters, and stronger still in the letter 
of J. Wiater, No. 664; and everyone shares or is supposed 
to share it. That the military service is a great annoyance 
to the peasant is shown by the fact that so many peasants 
prefer to leave their country forever rather than to serve 
for example, Maks Markiewicz and Michal Osinski. No 
other manifestation of the authority of the state interferes 
so much with the peasant's life. 

It is not difficult to understand the peasant's hatred of 
the army. First of all, in Russia he is completely isolated 
from his family and community and finds himself among 
foreign people whose language he does not well understand 
(even if he was taught it in the school), whose faith is 
different, whose cultural level is lower than his own, and 
who dislike him. He is driven far into the east of Russia, 
often to Siberia, for it is a policy of the Russian government 
to scatter the Polish soldiers over the whole empire, for 
fear of a revolution. Further, the peasant accustomed to 
the relative liberty of country life finds himself in the 
barracks, under a harsh and continual control; all his acts 
are prescribed; there are innumerable trifles which never 
permit him to forget his dependence. Instead of farm- 
work, which is for him full of meaning, which has a great 
variety and requires no particular precision, he finds drill, 
with its efforts to attain mechanical precision, not only 
monotonous but absolutely meaningless. Not only are 
three or four years of his life lost without any benefit, but 
there is nothing to compensate for this evil no patriotism, 
since the cause which he is serving is the cause of the enemies 
and oppressors of his country, no idea of military honor, 
since in Poland this idea was developed only among the 


nobility, no expectation of a material benefit, since the 
military service does not prepare him for any future position. 
In Germany, and particularly in Austria, the hatred of 
the army is not so strong; the soldier is less isolated, he can 
usually go home on leave more than once; the cultural 
level of his companions is higher; the military authorities 
know much better how to interest the soldier in his work. 
In Austria there is still another reason why the peasant 
looks differently upon military service the fidelity of the 
Austrian Poles to the Hapsburgs. But, even there a strong 
antipathy to military service persists, for some of its reasons 
remain always the same. 


J6zef Markiewicz 

Anna, his wife 

Waclaw (Wacio, Wacek) 

Stanislaw (Stas, Stasiek, Stasio) his sons 


Elzbieta (Elzbietka, Bicia) 

Pecia . . . . 

Polcia (Apolonia) 

Zonia (Zosia, Zofia) 

Franus (Franciszek), Pecia's husband 

Grandmother (probably Anna's mother) 

J. Przanowski, probably Anna's brother 

Feliks 1 probably Anna's brothers; perhaps 

AntoniJ cousins of herself or husband 

Mackowa, cousin of Jozef or Anna 

Teosia, daughter of J. Przanowski 

Wacek, Teosia's husband 

Maks, son of J. Przanowski 

Jan Markiewicz, J6zef's brother 

His wife 

Maks (Maksymilian) 

Stas (Stasio, Stanislaw) 

Wiktor (Wiktorek) 



his sons 



his daughters 


Grandmother (probably mother of Jan's wife) 
Zi61ek (Zi61kowski) , her husband 
Jan Zi61ek, the latter's son by his first marriage 
Zi61ek's sister 
Other relatives in Poland, in America, in Prussia, in Petersburg. 





200, FROM WIKTOR; 201-11, FROM MAKS; 212-225, FROM 


142 ZAZDZIERZ, January 7, 1907 

DEAR SON: We received your letter .... and we thank God 
that you are in good health, because I [your mother] have continually 
felt and even dreamed about you very badly, and I always remem- 
bered that dream, and we both were anxious for you There is 

news that Teosia fled to America, to W. Brzezoski, but it is not certain 
whether the trick will succeed, because your uncle J. P[rzanowski] 
went in pursuit of her to Bremen. God forbid, what a meeting it will 
be. 1 As to grinding, there is much of it this year. Thanks to God, 
we shall earn enough for the household expenses. You asked about 
the horse. We sold him during the harvest of summer-grain. We 
got 24 roubles for him. I bought an ass, but I sold it at once, for it 
was a dog's worth [proverbial]. Now I write you that from Wincen- 
towo there are a dozen [men] going [to America], and they beg for your 
address. Shall we give it to them or not ? .... We have in our farm- 
stock 3 nice cows, 3 rather good hogs, 5 geese. Before winter there 
will be some young ones, and so we push forward our lot and our age. 
And Elzbietka has boys from time to time. One came as if to the 
mill. His name is Tokarski, from Rychlin. His sister says that if we 

1 Elopement is very rare among the peasants, and, in view of the familial 
character of marriage, the family is supposed to condemn severely such an attempt 
to avoid its control. 


want [him], he has 400 roubles in a bank and he can show them for 
greater certainty. She says that he had a shop in Lodz. But we are 
not in a hurry, we only said to him that he can call upon us. Stas 
cannot find anything favorable; that about which I wrote you did 
not please us, nor him either. So he absolutely wants to go to you. 
How do you think ? Is it worth while or not ? . . . . 


DEAR BROTHER: Send soon the ship-ticket or money, or else I shall 
take money from here for the journey. Why, there is so much money 
with us! But let it rather remain; 1 I would pay you back later on. 
Answer at once, and write me, what I shall take of clothes, linen, and 
living [food], because about the middle of March I am going to you. 
Let me also try America! I would not spend there longer than 2 

years. In our windmill there is big grinding, day and night 

Answer at once, because I will leave about the middle of March. 

Be healthy, be healthy [goodbye], dear son and dear brother. As 
to the ship-ticket, wait a little, because I want now to marry [the 
daughter of] Gasztyka in Topolno. If I succeed, I shan't go to 
America, and if I don't succeed, then I shall go. 


143 February 10, 1907 

DEAR SON: .... We thank you for not having forgotten our 
need which it was absolutely necessary to satisfy. Mr. and Mrs. 
Goszewski moved on January 22. We gave them the money back; 
they refused to accept any interest, so we only thanked them. We 
helped them, when they moved, to pack up their baggage. In 
bidding them farewell, we all wept. Tadek did not want to go to 
Ojcow; he mentioned very often Mr. W[aclaw] who will bring him a 
[wooden] horse from America. And now, when [more] money comes 
from you, we will at once turn it over to Pecia, and so we shall have 
peace once for all with these debts 

And now I write to you about Teosia. Your uncle sent a telegram 
to Bremen and went himself to Torun, to your uncle F. F., and they 

1 An expression of the old qualification of economic quantities which we have 
treated in the Introduction: "Economic Attitudes." The peasant is reluctant to 
touch, even for a short time, money which has been put aside. But in this case it 
is rather the reluctance of the father than of the son. 


sent her photograph, and the police turned the girl back to her father 
in Torun. It is said that they wrote a letter to Brzezoski telling him 
to come, for they give the permission because of the wish of their 
daughter [and of her behavior]. And Stas cannot find anyone such 

as he would like to marry. Dear son, send us your photograph 


144 March 10, 1907 

DEAR SON: .... And now we are very sad, dear son, that you 
are longing for your family. But I don't marvel, because although I 
have them all here, I weep [for you] more than once and I pray our 
Lord God that you may come happily back to your family home. We 
will now write letters to you oftener, because it won't be so difficult 
[to get] to Plock, for you know how it is in winter always snow and 
cold. We go there seldom, and here we have no post-office. 

We received on one day the 100 roubles which you sent and on the 
next day we gave them to Pecia and Franus, and 8 roubles of interest. 1 
You ordered us to buy for the children [material] for dresses, so I 
bought it at once, and you made them very glad. They thank you. 
And now, dear son, when you earn as much as you can without 
damaging your health, send the money home, and we shall make it 
safe. Don't think that perhaps we will take it for our household 
needs; what you send now will be made safe for you once and forever. 
.... You ask about grandmother. She clucks as a hen when all 
her chickens have been taken away. Walentowa weeps for her boys 
[who are in America] ; Antoniowa does not regret much [her man who 
went away] because she has another. Everybody whom I meet asks 
about you, dear son, and wishes you the best possible, and everybody 
says, " May God grant us to see him happily once more." We bought 
a good overcoat for Pecia, and in the spring we will also give her a 
young cow Stasio often looks in at Dobrzykow Some- 
thing ties him, some love, nearer to the Vistula May our Lord 

God help you to earn some hundred roubles that you may find your 
way here. Now bee-keeping is again considered a good business. 

1 This money was evidently destined originally for Pecia's dower. It had 
apparently been advanced to the brother in America, and as Pecia did not receive 
it promptly on her marriage, interest is added. The giving of interest here indi- 
cates the substitution of an economic for a purely social attitude. Under the old 
system the delay would have formed no reason for the payment of interest. 


.... Elzbieta's kum [god-brother] said that he got 80 roubles for 
the honey in one year. .... So when our Lord God brings you back 
we shall will you [some land] and you can set up an orchard and bee- 


145 July 4, 1907 

DEAR SON: .... We heard about a terrible accident, that 
Seweryniak who was in America was killed by a train, and it is true, 
for his brother Franciszek buried him. Dear son, be careful. May 

God keep you from any accident In the autumn Alfons 

seriously intends going to you, but don't think that it is not a fact. 1 
So answer his question. You know his strength. We say that his 
intention is of no use. The fathers and mothers [of the young men 
who went to America] and the wife of Mielczarek send you their 
thanks [for having received and helped the newcomers in America]. 

Dear son, you write us not to be surprised, that you want to 
marry. But we don't oppose it at all if she is only a girl with a good 
education. 2 Consider it well, because the state of marriage is subject 
to great [many] conditions. But if she pleased you, then very well. 
May our Lord God bless you, and we wish you with our whole heart 

everything the best In fact I spoke about it myself [wishing] 

that you might not spend your young years on nothing. So consider 
it the best you can and marry. If only the girl is orderly and good, 
we can only rejoice. .... If she is from Plock, let her give you her 
address if she has parents here, and where they live, so we shall get 
acquainted with them. 

If you don't marry, send your money home, but if you have the 
intention [to marry], then do not. 

Be healthy, be healthy, dear son. 


146 December 5, 1907 

DEAR SON: .... In our home everybody is healthy enough, 
only in Pecia's home her youngest daughter died. Stasio and Kocia 

1 This phrase is ironical. Alfons is not treated seriously by any one of the 

3 Showing how relatively advanced the writers are. In no other series is this 
question of education raised. 


Bialecka were the god-parents. She lived only 5 weeks 

You ask about Teosia. She came home very quietly with her father 
and she is at home. Perhaps there somebody told tales like a gypsy, 
but don't believe it at all, because all that is untrue. 1 [Weather; 
Christmas wishes.] And your father, thanks to God, is not at all the 

same as he was [his character has improved] 


147 February 24, 1908 

DEAR SON: We received your letter We wish you to be 

healthy in body and soul, because this is the excellence of man. For 
the second year is passing already, and you don't mention anything 
about religion or church. Remember the admonition of your parents. 
For faith is the first thing, and everything else is only additional. 
Don't step aside from the true way. Consider it, for you can do harm 
to your whole family. 2 

And now I inform you that rye is 7 roubles [a bushel]. Thanks 
to God there is work in the windmill; the barn brings also a few 
bushels [for space rented ?] and so we try as best we can that there may 
be more and more [property] for you [children], 

Dear son, reflect well, if you are working beyond the ocean only 
for the sake of living [without saving], leave it and come to us. 3 If 

1 Evidently, such an exceptional occurrence as Teosia's flight has stirred up 
much gossip. This is one of the reasons why girls and boys avoid any irregularities 
in their marriage. Sometimes the smallest irregularity in the wedding ceremony 
provokes the most mischievous gossip and most wonderful interpretations. 

2 Probable meaning: "God may punish the whole family for your sins." 
Thus, the feeling of familial unity is carried so far as to acknowledge a common 
responsibility before God. The attitude is evidently not an isolated fact; common 
religious responsibility is still more or less admitted not only for families, but also 
for other social units, as villages and parishes. This has clearly nothing to do with 
the biblical heredity of sin and punishment: it is merely the manifestation of the 

s The new tendency to advance as against the old interest in mere living is here 
expressed as clearly as possible. Fifty years ago it was all right if a young member 
of a family, which was too poor to support all its members, earned his living 
by servant- work and thus spared the rest of the family his living expenses; there 
was not even the idea of his increasing the familial fortune for he had no wages 
in cash. Even now, in the Osinski series, we find this attitude, when Michal serves 
as a groom, for the father refuses to feed him (although this refusal, in the good 
economic condition of the family, is already something new). But here, with re- 


you have a few hundred roubles, I will take [add] my money, and I will 
buy a farm somewhere for you. The inn in Dobrzykow is now for sale, 
or perhaps something else J6zEF MARKIEWICZ 

148 March 29, 1908 

DEAR SON: I received your letter. I rejoiced much that you are 
in good health, but for another cause you make us sad, for you don't 
intend to come back to our country. At this moment the paper 
trembled in my. hand or my hand shook in recording it. Why, even 
birds who fly away from their native place still do come back ! How 
did you dare to pronounce such wretched [mean] words ? You ought 
to hold to the parental exhortations. I never taught you to criticize 
the clergy. You know that Bonaparte shook the whole of Europe 
until he broke off with the head of the Church, and later you know 
what became of him later! Well, I don't mention that you forgot 
about religion, i.e., about the greatest jewel, only that after a year you 
[raise yourself ?] above us. What you give to the papers is bad, and it 
is a pity that you use your learning so, for learning is everywhere 
useful to man, but [your ideas] are useful to you there, but won't be 
when you come back. [Whole paragraph obscure and translation 

conjectural.] And now with us it is as it has been As to 

money, we don't absolutely require you to send any when you cannot, 
because I try always to have a few hundred roubles on hand. Only 
don't forget about yourself for your later years 

I have nothing more to write, only I tell you the news. Wiktor, 
son of Jan, went to the army to Petersburg and there he found our 
family. Three sons of my father's brother are there. One of them 
is a higher railway-conductor, the other a physician, the third a 
professor. And in Prussia our family also got honors. Stasiek up to 
the present does not succeed [in marrying] and Elzbietka also sits at 
home. I end my letter with these words: May you not forget, even 

as swallows don't forget their native nests. 


Dear son, why are you so angry and why do you answer us so 
severely ? The girls wept after reading this letter, so that it was quite 

gard to Waclaw, the situation of the family is almost brilliant when measured 
by peasant standards, and still Waclaw should increase the fortune. If he cannot 
do it by working in America he ought to do it by farmer's work. If he does noth- 
ing but live on his income he is regarded as losing his time. 


gloomy in the house. And we, the parents, what are we to say ? You 
don't want to come back to us, but I don't think it true. I believe 

in you that you love your parents and your country J 


149 September 7, 1909 

DEAR SON: .... And as to the letters from you, we had none 
except last year in July for my name-day. Then we answered at once 
and we asked you for an answer, but we received no letter until today, 
September 7. Dear son, believe us, there was not a day when we did 
not complain about your negligence, and you complain about us! 
Neither letter nor postcard, nothing up to the present. I don't know 
what happened. We have only this letter which you tell us to send 
to the editor [of some paper]. As for me, I fall asleep with the thought 
about you and I awake with the same thought; I end the day with 
tears and I begin it with tears. I did not understand what happened 
to you. Everybody at home tried to comfort me, but it was hard to 
wait. Your father went to Jan M[arkiewicz] in order that he might 
ask Maks. They said that Maks wrote about your having gone 
somewhere without giving any word of yourself, but they did not 
allow us to read the letter. 

With us everything is as it has been from old; we have a horse, 
worth 100 roubles, a new wagon, 3 cows, 2 calves, 4 pigs worth also 
about 100 [roubles], etc. The crops are the average. Franus [son-in- 
law] is captain [of a Vistula boat]. They bought 6 morgs of land. 
We have given them some money already, but we will add some more, 
for we must give them at least 500 roubles. Teosia and Wacek were 
with us for a week, but they did not say anything about any loan, so 
it is probably a lie. We heard that they said something to Franus. 
They are all worth the same [little]. Well, God be with them. I 
don't see any blessing of God for them. They had only her [one 
daughter] and even so they came to us asking us for a hundred [roubles] 
for her wedding * 

1 For the meaning of this letter, as showing the contrast between the old and 
the young generation, cf. Introduction: "Peasant Family." 

3 We see how success may assume a moral value by being conceived as the 
result of God's blessing. Formally this conception was introduced by the church 
in its endeavor to ascribe to God all the good. But the content is really older. 
Prosperity was a sign of a harmony between man and nature. Cf. Introduction: 
"Religious and Magical Attitudes." 


Your father was in Wloclawek .... and called upon Edek. 
Edek said that he saw you in the spring and that you intend to come 
back to our country. ( If you think it good, then come. He said that 
you are some sort of a boss, and that you earn about $400. Can it be ? 
Or perhaps it is only a slander of your enemies; I don't know. Your 
grandmother began to reproach us for your education, saying that 
we have praised you so much, and now you don't write. We grieve 
ourselves enough. All other people do write, and we don't have any 
news. How hard and painful it is when anybody asks us [about you]. 
We were